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"If I  don 't  tell  my  side  of  the  story, "  Ava 
Gardner  said,  "it'll  be  too  late,  and  then  some 
self-appointed  biographer  will  step  in  and  add 
to  the  inaccuracies,  the  inventions,  and  the 
abysmal  lies  that  already  exist. 

7  want  to  tell  the  truth. . .  about  the  three 
men  I  loved  and  married:  Mickey  Rooney, 
Artie  Shaw,  and  Francis  Sinatra.  I  want  to 
write  about  the  Hollywood  1  knew  from  the 
early  forties  when  I  arrived  wide-eyed  from 
the  cotton  and  tobacco  fields  of  North 
Carolina,  about  the  films  I  made,  many  in 
exotic  settings  all  over  the  world,  and  the  real 
behind-the-scenes  stories,  often  a  damn  sight 
more  dramatic  than  the  moms  themselves. 

7 want  to  remember  it  all,  thegoodand 
bad  times,  the  late  nights,  the  boozing,  the 
dancing  into  dawns,  and  all  the  great 
and  not-so-great people  I  met  and  loved  in 
those  years...." 

For  more  than  two  years  Ava  Gardner 
sifted  through  her  memories,  filling  ninety 
tapes  with  reminiscences  of  her  life  as  a 
sharecropper's  daughter  turned  legendary 
screen  star.  She  completed  the  last  tape  just  a 
few  months  before  her  sudden  death  in 
January  1990.  And  now,  here,  as  only  Ava  can 
tell  it,  is  her  story— as  straightforward, 
irreverent,  and  exciting  as  the  woman  herself. 

She  was  the  seventh  child  of  a  kindly  farmer 
and  his  gregarious  wife;  a  risk-taking  tomboy 
who  was  happiest  running  barefoot  through 
the  fields;  a  pretty  girl  who  knew  what  it  was 
like  to  be  dirt  poor.  She  was  Ava  Gardner,  and 
in  1940,  at  the  age  of  eighteen,  she  was  about 
to  be  transformed  overnight  from  North 
Carolina  hillbilly  to  MGM  starlet.  Within  six 
months  she'd  be  socializing  with  stars  such  as 

(Continued  on  back  flap) 


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IBIT    OK  21  '91 

Gardner,    Ava.  «M  MAR 

:    my   story   / 







®  A? 

New  York  *  Toronto  •  London  •  Sydney  •  Auckland 

A  Bantam  Book  I  November  1990 

Cover  photo  courtesy  of  The  Kobal  Collection 

Grateful  acknowledgment  is  made  to  William  Graves,  the  Robert  Graves  Copyright  Trust,  and  St.  John's 
College,  Oxford,  for  permission  to  use  the  poem  "Not  to  Sleep, "  which  Robert  Graves  dedicated  to  Ava  Gardner, 
and  for  the  four  lines  taken  from  "The  Portrait"  by  Robert  Graves,  Collected  Poems,  ©  1955  Doubleday  &  Co., 

Garden  City,  New  York, 

"Someone  to  Watch  Over  Me" 

(George  Gershwin,  Ira  Gershwin) 

©  1926  (Renewed)  WB  Music  Corp. 

All  rights  reserved.  Used  by  permission. 

Back  cover  photographs  clockwise  from  left:  Starfile,  Movie  Still  Archives, 

Bettmann  Archives,  Movie  Still  Archives,  The  Kobal  Collection,  Keystone, 

Wide  World  Photos,  Bill  Dudasl Motion  Picture  &  Television  Photo 

Archives,  The  Kobal  Collection.  Center;  The  Kobal  Collection. 

The  text  was  designed  and  the  project  was  supervised  by 
M  'N  0  Production  Services,  Inc. 

All  rights  reserved. 

Copyright  ©  1990  by  C  &  J  Films,  Inc. 

Cover  design  copyright  ©  1990  by  One  Plus  One  Studio. 

No  part  of  this  book  may  be  reproduced  or  transmitted 

in  any  form  or  by  any  means,  electronic  or  mechanical, 

including  photocopying,  recording,  or  by  any  information 

storage  ana  retrieval  system,  without  permission  in  writing  from 

the  publisher. 
For  information  address:  Bantam  Books. 

Library  of  Congress  Catalog  ing-in~Publication  Data 

Gardner,  Ava. 

Ava:  my  story  I  Ava  Gardner. 

p.     cm. 

ISBN  0-553-07134-3 

1.  Gardner,  Ava,  1922-1990.    2.  Motion  picture  actors  and 
actresses  —  United  States  —  Biography.    I.  Title. 
PN2287.G37A3    1990 

(Bl  90-1102 


Published  simultaneously  in  the  United  States  and  Canada 

.  Its 

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0  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 


was  born  Ava  Lavinia  Gardner  on  Christmas 
Eve  1922  in  Grab  town.  North  Carolina.  Not 
Brogden,  not  Smithfield,  like  so  many  of  the 
books  say,  but  poor  old  Grabtown.  God  knows  why  it  got  that 
name:  there  was  no  place  to  grab,  and  hardly  any  town  at  all 
And  wouldn't  it  just  be  my  luck  to  be  born  a  Capricorn.  I've 
often  thought  of  it  as  the  worst  sign,  but  no  matter.  It  wasn't  my 
style  to  let  a  little  thing  like  the  stars  get  in  my  way. 

And  speaking  of  luck,  how  about  having  to  live  through  child- 
hood with  my  birthday  and  Christmas  Day  being  just  about  si- 
multaneous celebrations?  That  meant  I'd  like  as  not  be  fobbed 
off  with  one  present  instead  of  the  two  I  just  knew  I  deserved. 
And  the  news  got  worse.  It  appeared  that  there  was  this  whole 
other  person,  Jesus  Christ,  whose  birthday  a  lot  of  people  tended 
to  confuse  with  mine.  I  was  personally  outraged.  It  was  a  long 
time  before  I  forgave  the  Lord  for  that. 

I  came  into  this  world  at  ten  o'clock  at  night,  and  I've  often 
thought  that  that  was  the  reason  I  turned  into  such  a  nocturnal 
creature.  When  the  sun  sets,  honey,  I  feel  more,  oh,  alert.  More 
alive.  By  midnight,  I  feel  fantastic.  Even  when  I  was  a  little  girl, 
my  father  would  shake  his  head  and  say,  "Let's  just  hope  you  get 
a  job  where  you  work  nights."  Little  did  he  know  what  was  in 
store  for  me.  It  takes  talent  to  live  at  night,  and  that  was  the  one 
ability  I  never  doubted  I  had. 

But  that  was  all  in  the  future.  As  a  child,  what  I  loved  about 
my  birthday  was  the  Christmas  tree  with  lighted  candles  on  it 


and  the  fact  that  all  the  relatives  came  to  my  party.  My  older 
sisters  and  their  husbands.  Aunts  and  uncles.  Lots  and  lots  of 
children.  And  even  when  we  were  too  poor  to  have  two  presents, 
Mama  always  made  sure  to  bake  two  special  cakes  just  for  me. 
One  was  chocolate,  the  other  white  coconut.  Mama  understood 
how  lonely  just  one  present  for  Christmas  and  your  birthday 
could  be. 

I  was  my  parent's  seventh  child,  always  treated  like  the  baby  of 
the  family  and  liking  every  bit  of  it.  Two  sons,  Raymond  and 
Melvin,  had  come  before  me,  and  four  daughters,  Beatrice  (nick- 
named Bappie),  Elsie  Mae,  Inez,  and  Myra.  At  nineteen,  Bappie 
was  the  eldest  and  already  married,  but  she  had  the  same  tomboy 
nature  as  me.  She'd  climbed  a  peach  tree  during  her  pregnancy, 
which  probably  wasn't  a  good  idea  in  the  first  place.  Then,  with- 
out stopping  to  think  about  it,  she  jumped  down  and  suffered  a 

Growing  up,  I  adored  Bappie's  husband  William.  He  was  big 
and  strong  and  lots  of  fun.  He'd  hang  me  up  by  the  back  of  my 
dress  on  a  coat  hook  behind  a  door  and  swing  me  backward  and 
forward  like  a  pendulum.  Or  he'd  take  both  my  hands  and  swing 
me  around  in  circles  that  soared  higher  and  higher,  with  my 
small  paws  clinging  to  him  like  starfish.  He  was  simply  gorgeous. 
Mama  loved  him,  too.  But  then  Mama  loved  all  the  husbands 
and  could  be  counted  on  to  take  their  part  whenever  a  squabble 
broke  out. 

Mama  was  Mary  Elizabeth  Gardner,  but  everyone  called  her 
Molly.  Age  39  the  year  I  was  born,  she  was  a  real  matriarch,  a 
warm  and  neighborly  woman  who  loved  her  family.  Her  father, 
Grandfather  Baker,  had  been  a  feisty  little  redheaded  Scotsman,  a 
great  farmer  who  swore  he  couldn't  die  happy  until  he  had 
twenty  children.  Between  Grandmother  Baker  and  his  second 
wife,  he  got  up  to  nineteen  before  he  died.  So  despite  wearing 
those  poor  women  out,  I'm  afraid  Grandpa  went  to  heaven  bro- 

Mama  cleaned  every  room  every  day  as  though  she  were  ex- 
pecting Sunday  visitors.  With  one  exception.  That  was  the 
kitchen,  which  always  looked  as  though  a  hurricane  had  just 
swept  through  it.  But  out  of  that  mess  came  the  most  wonderful 
food.  When  it  came  to  hominy  grits,  nobody  could  touch  Mama. 
Even  her  fried  eggs  were  better  than  anyone  else's.  Mama  owned 


only  one  cookbook,  and  even  though  it  had  the  very  distin- 
guished title  of  The  White  House  Cookbook,  Fd  be  mighty  sur- 
prised if  any  presidents'  wives  had  so  much  as  looked  at  it.  Still, 
Mama  swore  by  it,  but  her  cooking  was  really  the  result  of 
knowledge  handed  down  from  mother  to  daughter  for  genera- 

Mama  took  after  Grandmother  Baker,  who  was  evidently  a 
very  beautiful  woman.  Mama  had  dark  brown  eyes  and  magnifi- 
cent creamy  porcelain  skin,  which  all  we  Gardner  girls  inherited. 
She  had  long,  dark,  wavy  hair  which  she  wore  in  a  bun  at  the 
back.  She  was  always  a  little  chubby — great  cooks  usually  are — 
and  the  pounds  crept  up  as  she  got  older.  Though  quite  short 
(five  foot  three  was  as  high  as  she  got),  Mama  was  very  energetic 
and  totally  gregarious.  She  loved  to  chat,  and,  unlike  me,  she 
loved  lots  of  people  around  her.  And  she  was  so  kind,  so  inter- 
ested in  people  and  their  problems.  She  encouraged  everybody, 
especially  her  children. 

Mama  was  obviously  a  strong  woman,  but  what  my  father 
Jonas  said  was  law.  Mama  loved  him  and  would  do  anything  he 
said.  I  remember  one  time  in  particular  when  it  had  snowed  so 
heavily  the  night  before  that  a  huge  pile  of  sawdust  behind  our 
house,  a  pile  into  which  I  used  to  practice  high  dives,  had  sud- 
denly turned  into  a  snowy  mountain  as  high  as  the  Alps. 

I  just  couldn't  wait  to  get  through  Mama's  ham  and  eggs,  grits, 
hot  biscuits,  and  milk  and  start  my  glorious  ascent.  I  had  just 
about  reached  the  top  when  I  noticed  Daddy  looking  up  at  me 
with  a  concerned  look  on  his  face. 

"Daughter,  come  down  from  there  at  once,"  he  said.  "You'll 
hurt  yourself." 

Though  he  called  my  sisters  by  their  Christian  names,  Daddy 
always  called  me  "Daughter."  But  no  matter  what  he  called  me,  I 
wasn't  about  to  come  down.  So  I  pretended  not  to  hear. 

Once  more,  Daddy  made  his  wishes  known  in  a  quiet,  reason- 
able voice,  and  once  more  I  pretended  not  to  hear.  The  next  thing 
I  knew,  Daddy  had  grabbed  me,  hauled  me  down,  and  delivered 
two  or  three  sharp  smacks  across  my  bottom.  I  was  outraged. 
Daddy  had  never,  ever,  spanked  me  before.  His  method  had  been 
lots  of  good-advice  lectures  about  what  was  right  and  what  was 
wrong.  So  I  raced,  yelling,  for  the  comfort  of  Mama  in  the 


"Daddy  spanked  me!"  I  screamed,  the  outraged  innocent. 
"Daddy  spanked  me!" 

If  I  expected  Mama  to  enfold  me  in  her  arms  and  comfort  me, 
I  was  in  for  a  shock.  The  family  disciplinarian,  she  could  restore 
order  with  a  quick  cuff  from  either  hand.  Sure,  she  missed  most 
of  the  time,  but  that  didn't  stop  her  from  making  her  point.  Now 
she  turned  from  the  stove  and  regarded  me  with  cool  eyes. 

"Daddy's  right,"  she  said  firmly.  And  I  knew  immediately  that 
that  was  one  argument  I  was  never  going  to  win.  So  I  drifted  out 
to  play  somewhere  else,  still  turning  this  "Daddy's  right"  busi- 
ness over  in  my  mind.  It  wasn't  until  years  later  that  I  really 
understood  it  fully,  understood  that  right  or  wrong  they  backed 
each  other  to  the  hilt.  It  made  for  strength  in  their  relationship,  a 
strength  I  guess  I  was  always  looking  for  in  mine. 

I  remember  my  father  so  well.  He  was  tall  and  lean  with  soft 
black  hair.  A  cleft  in  his  chin  and  the  green  eyes  that  I  inherited. 
But  there  was  a  sparkle  in  those  eyes  and  a  smile  on  his  lips.  He 
treated  life  as  it  came,  and  when  the  work  on  the  farm  was  going 
well,  he  asked  for  nothing  more. 

On  one  level,  there  wasn't  much  to  separate  Daddy  from  the 
other  farmers  in  Johnston  County,  North  Carolina.  He  wore 
overalls  hitched  up  over  a  plaid  woolen  shirt,  with  a  short 
chunky  jacket  added  if  the  season  demanded  it.  He  would  have 
fit  right  in  with  those  photos  of  pioneer  farmers  you  see  in  every 
state  museum.  The  ones  of  lean,  rugged  men  with  determined 
faces  and  weary,  suspicious  eyes.  Eyes  that  had  known  hard 
times  before  and  would  know  them  again.  There  was  never  much 
happiness  in  those  eyes,  but,  oh,  God,  they  were  indomitable. 

Daddy,  however,  was  different.  There  was  enough  of  a  streak 
of  the  lyric  and  romantic  Irish  in  him  to  let  you  know  that  he  was 
never  ever  going  to  make  his  fortune.  I  think  that  deep  inside  he 
would  have  loved  to  have  gotten  an  education,  maybe  even  stud- 
ied the  few  well-worn  law  books  that  for  some  reason  were  al- 
ways around  the  house.  But  that  wasn't  in  the  cards  for  him. 

Daddy  sharecropped.  He  farmed  the  land,  and  the  deal  he 
made  was  the  traditional  half  and  half.  The  landlord  provided 
seed  and  fertilizer  and  they  shared  the  profits,  when  there  were 
any.  Daddy  was  always  a  private  man,  shy  and  retiring  to  a  large 
degree,  and  I  inherited  that  trait  from  him.  Even  as  a  little  girl,  I 
could  be  pugnacious  and  combative  on  the  outside,  shy  and  ner- 
vous of  people  on  the  inside. 


Daddy  did  everything  slowly  and  deliberately;  there  wasn't  an 
impulsive  bone  in  his  body.  I  can  see  him  now,  sitting  at  the 
kitchen  table,  making  us  lemonade.  He'd  rub  the  lemons  for 
what  seemed  like  hours  so  they'd  be  soft  and  the  juice  would 
literally  pour  out  of  them.  Our  tongues  would  be  hanging  out  by 
the  time  that  lemonade  was  made,  but  I've  never  tasted  anything 
like  it.  No  booze,  honey,  was  ever  so  good. 

One  thing  Daddy  was  not  given  to  was  quick  anger  and  violent 
confrontations,  no  matter  what  the  provocation.  There  was,  for 
instance,  the  time  my  brother  Melvin — everybody  called  him 
Jack,  as  they  do  with  a  name  like  that — stole  into  Daddy's  to- 
bacco barn  to  sneak  a  puff  on  a  cigarette.  Unfortunately,  he 
dropped  the  match,  and  before  you  knew  it,  an  almighty  con- 
flagration consumed  not  only  the  barn  but  the  cotton  gin  behind 
it  as  well.  In  fact,  one  of  my  earliest  memories  is  being  held  up  to 
the  window  of  our  house  to  watch  them  both  burn  down. 

Jack  tore  into  the  house  and  dove  under  the  bed,  fearing  that 
Daddy's  wrath  would  burst  over  him  at  any  moment.  But  not 
only  didn't  Daddy  take  any  action,  he  hardly  even  made  a  com- 
ment. He  knew,  of  course,  what  Jack  had  done,  but  he  also  knew 
it  had  not  been  done  deliberately.  It  was  an  accident,  pure  and 
simple,  and  you  didn't  brood  over  things  like  that.  Punishing 
Jack  would  not  have  restored  the  barn  or  the  cotton  gin. 

Daddy  had  faced  hard  times  before,  and  gotten  over  them,  but 
this  was  something  else  again.  Since  there  was  no  insurance  in 
those  days,  the  fire  left  us  without  the  money  to  stay  on,  and  we 
moved  out  of  our  house  and  into  a  place  called  the  Teacherage  in 
nearby  Brogden.  Sitting  on  a  green  lawn  under  shady  trees,  the 
Teacherage  was  nothing  more  than  a  large  clapboard  house,  with 
more  rooms  than  I'd  ever  imagined,  that  served  as  a  boarding- 
house  for  teachers. 

You  have  to  understand  that  in  our  part  of  North  Carolina, 
there  was  no  such  thing  as  motels  (and  the  only  small  hotels  were 
in  Smithfield,  eight  miles  away),  and  respectability  demanded 
that  the  young  lady  teachers  for  Brogden's  Johnston  County 
Grammar  School  be  provided  with  room  and  board  to  suit  their 
status.  And  with  her  skill  in  the  kitchen,  my  mother  was  the  ideal 
choice  to  run  the  place. 

That  grammar  school,  two  stories  high  and  made  of  red  brick, 
looked  suspiciously  like  a  factory  to  me.  But  it  provided  elemen- 
tary education  up  to  the  seventh  grade  for  close  to  two  hundred 


children.  In  fact,  during  the  school  term,  Brogden  was  just  about 
besieged  by  children.  On  foot,  or  bused  from  nearby  farming 
neighborhoods,  they  poured  in  like  a  flood  of  puppies  and  kit- 
tens: girls  and  boys  of  all  ages,  jabbering,  jostling,  pushing,  yell- 
ing, and  squabbling. 

Growing  up  in  a  Teacherage,  with  everyone  focused  on  educa- 
tion, I  sometimes  wonder  why  I'm  not  a  Greek  scholar  or  some- 
thing. What  I  did  acquire,  though,  was  an  understanding  of 
discipline,  of  the  importance  of  doing  your  work  properly  and 
being  clean  and  punctual.  I  got  a  good  country  education,  and 
there's  nothing  wrong  with  that.  It  set  standards  for  the  rest  of 
my  life. 

The  only  thing  I  didn't  care  for  about  school  was  having  to 
force  my  feet  into  those  hated,  confining  things  called  shoes.  In 
those  days,  thousands  of  children  throughout  the  South  ran 
around  barefoot  for  half  a  year  and  more.  Shoes  were  expensive. 
Besides,  I've  always  loved  the  feel  of  baked  earth,  green  grass, 
soft  mud,  and  stream  water  under  my  feet.  It  was  a  special  sort  of 
freedom,  and  to  this  day  I  try  and  recapture  it  every  chance  I  get. 

Sometimes,  though,  I  felt  a  little  left  out  of  Brogden's  comings 
and  goings.  I  yearned  to  arrive  on  a  bus  like  everybody  else.  And, 
my  God,  the  status  of  showing  up  with  your  own  box  lunch.  Part 
of  me  knew  that  Mama's  lunches  were  much  better,  but  I  desper- 
ately wanted  a  lunch-box  lunch.  So  I  found  friends  who  agreed  to 
share  their  horrible  biscuits  and  big  repulsive  slabs  of  ham,  half 
an  inch  thick.  That  accomplished,  I'd  arrange  to  go  home  with 
them  and  spend  the  night.  Then  I  could  scrunch  up  in  bed  with  a 
girlfriend  and  get  the  special  joy  of  a  bus  ride  there  and  back.  I 
thought  I  was  pretty  clever,  but  I  guess  Mama  saw  through  all 
my  plots. 

One  adventure  I  had  that  even  Mama  didn't  know  about  in- 
volved Al  Creech.  Al  was  my  five-year-old  nephew,  the  son  of  my 
older  sister  Elsie  Mae  and  I  was  his  self-appointed  older  and 
wiser  protector  in  a  world  of  rough,  tough  kids.  So  it  was  natural 
that  I  accompanied  Al  on  his  very  first  shopping  expedition.  We 
crossed  the  dirt  road  and  entered  the  cool,  dark  general  store, 
where,  after  proper  deliberation,  he  walked  away  with  his  heart's 
desire:  a  handful  of  brightly  colored  marbles. 

And  what  did  the  poor  fool  do?  He  marched  off  to  the  play- 
ground to  join  the  big  boys  at  marbles,  eager  to  convince  them 


that  he  was  all  grown  up.  But  though  I  was  a  master  marble 
flicker,  Al  was  a  total  novice.  The  big  guys  took  one  look,  recog- 
nized a  sucker,  and  cleaned  him  out. 

Al  didn't  have  to  tell  me  what  happened.  The  end-of-the-world 
look  on  his  face  said  it  all.  I  was  incensed.  Al  was  my  respon- 
sibility. More  than  that,  I  was  pretty  sure  the  big  guys  hadn't 
been  above  rearranging  the  rules  to  suit  themselves.  So  I  dragged 
Al  back  to  the  scene  of  the  crime.  The  crooks  were  still  hanging 
around,  gloating.  I  stood  over  them  and  demanded,  "You  want 
to  play  marbles?" 

The  silence  was  total.  No,  they  didn't  want  to  play. 

"Well,  you're  going  to  play,"  I  insisted  fiercely.  "You're  going 
to  let  me  into  this  game  ...  or  else."  What  "or  else"  meant,  I 
hadn't  a  clue,  but  it  sure  sounded  threatening.  And  it  had  its 
intended  effect.  In  five  minutes,  I'd  won  all  ATs  marbles  back, 
and  a  few  more  for  good  measure. 

I  stood  up  and  the  marble  gang  stood  up  with  me.  This  was 

"We  won  his  marbles  fair  and  square,"  someone  piped  up. 

"And  I  won  'em  back  fair  and  square.  So  what  are  you  going 
to  do  about  it?  Want  to  fight?  Who  wants  the  first  bloody  nose?" 

Nobody  did.  The  triumph  of  virtue  has  never  felt  so  sweet. 

I  certainly  was  a  tomboy.  I  loved  games,  I  loved  action,  and  I 
could  match  most  of  the  boys.  Run  just  as  quick.  Climb  just  as 
high.  Take  as  many  risks.  We  played  baseball  with  an  improvised 
ball  made  out  of  a  piece  of  coal  wrapped  around  with  used  to- 
bacco twine.  A  piece  of  wood  cut  into  shape  served  as  the  bat.  I 
played  every  position.  I  was  inquisitive,  adventurous — and  occa- 
sionally jealous. 

It  all  started  with  my  love  of  dancing.  In  the  Teacherage  we 
had  an  old  upright  piano  and  I  could  swing  around  to  any  tune 
that  was  played.  So  when  I  heard  that  Myra,  my  older  sister,  was 
going  to  get  piano  lessons  instead  of  me,  my  jealousy  was  over- 
whelming. Especially  as  Mama  took  me  along  with  Myra  for  the 
weekly  lesson  at  a  place  called  Selma  about  five  miles  away. 

The  point  was,  I  knew  that  Myra  couldn't  care  less  about  hav- 
ing piano  lessons,  but  I  wanted  them,  desperately.  So  Myra 
would  plunk  away  halfheartedly  at  her  practice  at  the  Teach- 
erage, and  when  she  was  gone  and  nobody  else  was  looking,  I 
tried  to  bite  the  piano  keys  off.  Literally.  The  piano  stayed  intact, 


but  years  afterward  you  could  still  see  the  little  teeth  marks  on 
the  innocent  white  keys. 

From  those  moments  on,  music,  especially  movement  to  music, 
became  a  great  passion  with  me.  One  of  my  greatest  joys  was  the 
Holy  Rollers.  My  parents'  sedate  form  of  religion  didn't  appeal 
to  me,  but  Elva  Mae,  the  sweet  little  black  girl  who  helped  Mama 
out  in  the  kitchen,  used  to  take  me  to  the  services  at  the  Tee's 
Chapel.  And  I  just  fell  in  love  with  the  singing  and  the  preaching 
and  all  the  rest  of  that  good  old-time  religion. 

It  would  start  with  everyone  quiet  and  reverent.  The  preacher 
would  warm  up  with  a  few  quotes  from  his  Bible.  Then,  out  of 
nowhere,  he'd  catch  fire  and  give  everyone  hell.  I'm  here  to  tell 
you,  there  ain't  much  forgiveness  in  that  old-time  religion.  That 
particular  savior  was  a  mean  son  of  a  bitch.  If  you  sinned,  honey, 
he  was  going  to  get  you,  no  doubt  about  it.  "All  of  you  down 
there  in  this  congregation  is  sinners,"  the  preacher  would 
thunder.  "And  no  sinner's  going  to  escape  hellfire  and  damna- 
tion. No  sirree,  no  sirree." 

Crouching  down  next  to  Elva  Mae,  I  just  knew  I  was  one  of 
the  real  dyed-in-the-wool  sinners.  Sinning  when  I  broke  a  school- 
house  window  during  the  summer  so  that  Al  and  my  friends 
could  play  in  a  classroom.  Sinning  when  I  hung  out  with  Preston 
Lee  and  his  brothers,  boys  who  knew  all  the  best  cuss  words  and 
weren't  afraid  to  teach  me  how  to  use  them.  Mama,  though, 
would  have  a  fit  if  she  caught  me  saying  them,  so  I  had  to  be 
careful.  Still,  I  got  into  the  habit  of  using  them,  and  they  slip  out 
to  this  day.  They  sure  do  give  a  satisfying  jolt  to  a  sentence. 

And  most  especially  I  was  a  sinner  at  watermelon  harvest  time, 
when  we  raided  our  neighbors'  fields.  Not  that  we  needed  to.  So 
many  watermelons  were  grown  that  lots  were  left  to  rot  in  the 
fields.  But  we  were  thieves,  we  were  excited  by  the  dark  notion  of 
going  out  and  stealing  somebody  else's.  And  it  was  hard  work, 
too.  When  you're  six  or  seven,  the  damn  things  weigh  a  ton — 
you  could  barely  struggle  along  with  one  in  your  arms.  But  it  was 
worth  it  when  you  got  into  the  shade  of  a  tree  and  started 

My  private  catalogue  of  sins  was  invariably  interrupted  by  a 
"shouting."  A  woman  in  the  congregation  would  suddenly  leap 
to  her  feet  and  scream,  "Oh,  my  Lord!  Oh,  my  Lord!  I'm  in  the 
arms  of  Jesus!  I'm  in  the  arms  of  Jesus!  Let  me  pray  in  the  arms 
of  Jesus!" 


That  kind  of  outburst  was  like  a  red  flag  to  the  rest  of  the 
folks.  All  the  sinners  would  go  wild,  shouting,  praying,  running 
down  the  aisles,  leaping  in  the  air.  I  guess  it  helped  to  drive  the 
sinning  out  of  them.  I  watched,  holding  my  breath,  my  little  eye- 
balls out  on  stalks.  Then  the  frenzy  would  ebb  out  of  them,  the 
preacher  would  ease  them  back  to  normal,  and  we'd  sing  another 
hymn  or  two.  Those  lovely,  surging,  soaring  spirituals  sung  in 
harmony  and  lifting  the  soul.  Then  we'd  file  out,  peaceful  and 
purified.  And  I'd  plod  home  with  Elva  Mae,  making  pious  resolu- 
tions about  that  watermelon-stealing  stuff. 

Though  it  didn't  appeal  to  me,  my  parents'  religion  must  have 
helped  them  when  it  came  to  the  real  tragedies  of  their  lives.  But 
even  religion  was  not  enough  to  help  Mama  get  over  something 
that  happened  twelve  years  before  I  was  born,  something  that  I'm 
sure  left  its  tiny  mark  on  me. 

In  those  days,  before  electricity,  everyone  was  up  at  first  light. 
On  this  particular  day,  Daddy,  in  fact,  had  been  up  before 
daylight  because  he  and  some  men  were  using  dynamite  to  clear 
rocks  and  tree  stumps  from  one  of  his  fields.  The  dynamite  sticks 
were  ignited  by  firing  caps,  and  those  explosive  caps  and  the  dy- 
namite had  to  be  kept  well  apart. 

The  caps  were  kept  in  the  house,  in  a  drawer  of  the  dining- 
room  dresser.  It  was  an  important  drawer,  because  Daddy  also 
used  it  to  store  the  money  bag  that  contained  the  takings  from 
the  country  store  he  was  operating  at  the  time. 

Now,  as  Daddy  was  handing  out  the  caps  to  the  work  team, 
one  fell  to  the  floor  unnoticed.  Mama  came  out  of  her  kitchen  a 
little  later  and  began  tidying  up  the  hearth  as  usual.  She  swept 
odds  and  ends  off  the  floor  and  into  the  fire,  including,  though  no 
one  knew  it,  the  explosive  cap. 

Little  Raymond,  Mama's  firstborn  son,  was  up  early,  too.  He 
had  helped  himself  to  one  of  her  cheese  biscuits  and  was  standing 
in  front  of  the  fire  munching  it  when  the  explosion  occurred.  The 
noise  was  horrific,  and  at  first  no  one  knew  what  had  happened. 
But  with  a  terrible  intuition  Mama  dashed  back  into  the  dining 
room  and  found  Raymond  lying  on  the  floor.  She  scooped  him 
up  and  dashed  out  to  the  back  porch,  where  she  tried  to  stand 
him  up  on  the  ironing  board  to  see  the  extent  of  his  injury.  Bap- 
pie,  racing  behind  her,  never  forgot  the  look  of  complete  despair 
on  Mama's  face.  She  clasped  her  small  son  in  her  arms  and 
turned  to  look  for  help.  But  nothing  was  available,  only  a  slow 


horse-and-buggy  ride  to  Smithfield  eight  miles  away.  Raymond 
only  lived  until  he  reached  the  hospital  there.  He  was  two  years, 
two  months,  and  fifteen  days  old  when  he  died. 

I  knew,  as  I  grew  up,  that  Mama  always  held  a  deep  ache  in 
her  heart  for  Baby  Raymond.  And  that  ache  helped  forge  the 
strong  bond  that  kept  Mama  and  Daddy  solidly  together  through 
all  those  years.  It  was  a  bond  that  gave  both  their  marriage  and 
their  partnership  a  dimension  of  strength,  certitude,  and  con- 
tinuity that  I've  never  been  able  to  find.  All  things  considered,  I 
think  they  were  lucky.  They  belonged  to  a  generation  that  made 
their  vows  and  kept  them. 



n  Johnston  County,  North  Carolina,  you 
couldn't  be  any  kind  of  farmer  at  all  without 
a  mule.  I  can't  remember  if  ours  had  a  name, 
but  I  do  remember  that  I  loved  him.  And  as  much  as  he  was 
capable  of  love,  I  think  he  loved  me  in  return.  When  I  was  tired,  I 
could  hang  onto  his  tail  and  he'd  give  me  a  tow.  And  though  he 
could  be  ornery  if  other  folks  came  too  near,  he  never  ever  kicked 
out  at  me. 

Our  region  was  known  as  the  Bright  Leaf  tobacco  belt,  a  place 
where  that  bright  yellow  tobacco  had  grown  and  thrived  since 
long  before  Columbus  arrived.  Ironically,  Sir  Walter  Raleigh,  the 
man  who  introduced  the  leaf  to  the  British  Isles,  is  also  credited 
with  bringing  over  the  potato.  And  it  was  that  crop's  failure  in 
Ireland  in  the  1800s  that  brought  my  father's  forebears  across  the 
Atlantic  and  into  the  tobacco-growing  business  in  North  Car- 
olina. But  while  Raleigh,  the  state  capital,  is  named  after  that 
sterling  gentleman,  it  was  a  Frenchman,  Jean  Nicot,  who  in  the 
1500s  sent  a  package  of  the  famous  weed  to  Catherine  de  Medi- 
cis,  the  queen  of  France,  and  started  the  Western  world  on  the 
smoking  habit. 

I  don't  suppose  anyone  as  regal  as  a  queen  puffed  tobacco 
through  a  clay  pipe  or  wrapped  it  in  a  scrap  of  newspaper.  But 
when  me  and  my  small  gang  wanted  to  acquire  the  taste,  that's 
just  what  we  did.  We'd  sneak  into  the  barns  where  the  tobacco 
leaves  were  hung  to  dry,  tear  off  a  bit,  wrap  it  in  newspaper  like 
a  cigar,  and  light  up.  Naturally,  we  got  sick  as  dogs.  That  should 
have  cured  us  of  the  habit,  but  we  were  nothing  if  not  game. 



Lesson  two  came  when  I  was  working  in  the  fields  toting  water 
for  the  workers.  My  brother  Jack  called  out,  "Hey,  sugar,  bring 
the  water  across  here  and  I'll  give  you  a  present."  I  did  as  I  was 
told  and  was  handed  a  black  wad  of  tobacco. 

"You  chew  it,"  said  Jack,  grinning  at  my  puzzled  look. 

An  old  black  lady  a  few  steps  away  joined  in  the  laughter. 
"You  stick  the  plug  in  the  back  of  your  cheek,  honey,  and  hold  it 
there,"  she  said. 

Sound  advice,  but  I  was  too  young  to  take  it.  I  swallowed  the 
plug  in  one  awful  gulp  and  got  sick  all  over  again.  Jack,  being 
Jack,  laughed  his  head  off.  Still,  as  my  only  brother,  I  just  adored 
him  and  was  proud  to  be  his  little  servant,  constantly  cleaning  his 
shoes  and  ironing  his  shirts.  As  a  result,  to  this  day  I'm  one  hell 
of  an  ironer. 

Jack,  as  you  might  suspect,  was  always  getting  into  trouble. 
One  time  he  had  a  great  idea  for  making  a  little  money  on  the 
side.  He  invested  his  wages  in  a  load  of  fresh  fish  and  traveled 
around  our  neighborhood,  bartering  the  fish  for  farm  products 
which  he  resold  at  a  small  profit.  But  on  one  trip,  a  smooth  cus- 
tomer bartered  Jack's  stock  of  fish  for  crocks  of  corn  whiskey. 
"You  just  pour  the  contents  into  screw-top  fruit  jars  for  easy  han- 
dling," he  told  Jack.  "This'll  give  you  a  bigger  profit  than  vegeta- 

So  Jack,  knowing  that  Daddy's  away  for  a  few  hours,  sets  up 
this  bar  selling  White  Lightning  at  about  five  cents  a  shot.  And 
seeing  as  how  North  Carolina  was  dry  as  a  bone,  he  did  a  roar- 
ing business.  Now  corn  whiskey  is  strong  stuff,  around  one  hun- 
dred and  sixty  proof.  And  if  it  hasn't  been  distilled  properly,  it's 
powerful  enough  to  blind  you  or  even  kill  you.  So  it's  not  surpris- 
ing that  when  Daddy  came  home,  he  found  fifteen  of  his  friends 
and  neighbors  stretched  out  around  Jack's  bar,  dead  drunk.  If 
Jack  hadn't  been  too  old  to  wallop,  Daddy,  who  knew  the  dan- 
gers of  that  stuff,  would  have  made  mincemeat  out  of  him.  But 
he  did  close  Jack's  fish  route  and  roadside  bar.  Permanently. 

Ours  was  a  neighborly  and  self-sufficient  society.  Families  lived 
in  white-painted  clapboard  houses  dotted  among  the  fields,  with 
tobacco  barns  at  the  back  and  wicker  rocking  chairs  on  every 
porch.  Back  then,  people  raised  most  of  the  food  they  ate.  Hogs 
were  kept  and  the  pork  was  home-cured.  You'd  go  to  the  local 
mill  and  grind  your  corn  for  the  cornmeal.  Every  housewife  also 



had  her  stock  of  fruit  and  vegetable  preserves.  So  if  you  ran  short 
of  bottled  tomatoes,  you  could  swap  your  jars  of  peas  and 
peaches  with  a  neighbor  and  get  a  fresh  supply.  And  there  were 
small  local  stores  scattered  around,  like  one  Daddy  ran  for  a 
while.  They  carried  some  canned  goods,  tobacco,  sugar,  season- 
ings, a  few  sweets,  kerosene,  and  hardware  for  the  fields. 

Smithfield,  the  nearest  big  town,  was  only  eight  miles  away. 
But  because  those  eight  miles  were  on  narrow  dirt  lanes  that  fre- 
quent rains  turned  into  muddy  disasters,  Smithfield  might  as  well 
have  been  on  some  other  planet.  I  mean,  Smithfield  had  paved 
roads  and  built-up  sidewalks  and  even  electricity,  things  that 
didn't  reach  our  neck  of  the  woods  until  1945  or  1946. 

And  Smithfield  had  one  further  attraction:  an  honest-to-God 
movie  house.  And  Mama,  bless  her,  became  addicted.  Which 
meant  that  if  I  had  the  pocket  money  for  a  ticket,  I  could  always 
get  a  ride  into  town.  I  sat  up  in  the  balcony,  where  the  seats  were 
cheapest,  and  had  as  good  a  time  as  the  law  allowed.  But  if  I  ever 
thought  even  for  a  minute  that  somebody  like  me  could  ever  end 
up  up  there,  I  surely  don't  recall  it. 

The  best  way  I  knew  to  earn  that  pocket  money  was  to  work 
in  the  tobacco  fields,  where  I  surprised  myself  by  becoming  fasci- 
nated by  the  intricacies  of  the  growing  cycle,  a  process  that  had 
as  many  challenges,  failures,  and  successes  as  anything  I  saw  up 
on  that  screen  in  Smithfield. 

You'd  start  the  tobacco  off  as  early  as  the  weather  would  al- 
low, around  January  if  possible.  The  seeds  were  real  tiny  so  you 
mixed  them  with  sand  and  scattered  them  in  a  prepared  bedding 
plot.  Then  you  put  a  big  lightweight  canvas  over  everything  to 
protect  the  seeds  from  the  frost.  Once  the  sun  started  to  shine 
regularly,  you  removed  the  canvas  and  watched  the  seeds  sprout. 
The  second  half  of  April,  when  the  sprouts  were  a  few  inches 
high  and  pretty  sturdy,  was  the  moment  for  replanting,  or  what 
we  called,  "puttin'-in-tobacco  time." 

This  was  the  occasion  when  our  mule  really  was  in  his  glory, 
because  the  replanting  was  done  with  the  aid  of  a  muie-drawn 
contraption  that,  I  swear  to  God,  must  have  been  invented  by 
some  demented  genius  way  before  the  Civil  War.  The  driver  sat 
up  front  on  top  of  a  barrel  of  water.  Not  that  he  was  really  driv- 
ing— the  mule  knew  as  much  about  the  process  as  any  human 
being,  plodding  slowly  along  the  furrow  until  he  reached  the  end. 



During  that  walk,  the  driver  would  release  a  gush  of  water.  Not 
much  water,  about  a  cupful.  And  the  two  planters,  who'd  be  sit- 
ting backward  in  the  back  of  the  contraption  with  a  pile  of  to- 
bacco plants  on  their  laps,  would  reach  down  and  plug  a  plant  in 
the  wet  spot.  At  least,  that  was  the  theory,  though  the  process 
never  seemed  to  work  quite  that  way  whenever  I  tried  my  hand 
at  it 

Every  year  at  this  time,  regular  as  clockwork,  Shine  would  ar- 
rive. Shine  was  my  black  brother  and  dearest  friend.  Together 
with  Al  Creech,  we  were  a  threesome  united  against  the  world. 
Or  at  least  against  as  much  of  the  world  as  we  could  see.  The 
three  of  us  laughed,  worked,  and  played  together  endlessly. 

Shine  was  tall,  skinny  as  a  rail,  and  real  midnight  black.  As  far 
as  I  knew,  he  didn't  know  who  his  parents  were,  or  where  they 
came  from,  or  even  where  he  came  from.  He  didn't  seem  to  know 
exactly  how  old  he  was,  either,  but  he  knew  he  was  very  much  in 
this  world  and  he  was  enjoying  it.  He  stayed  in  the  house  with 
us,  ate  with  us,  and  was  part  of  the  family.  And  then  one  morn- 
ing every  fall,  I'd  wake  up  and  Shine  would  be  gone  without  a 
good-bye.  I'd  always  feel  sad  at  his  departure. 

Then,  when  I  was  about  ten  or  so  and  Shine  maybe  three  or 
four  years  older,  Mama  began  to  look  at  us  with  a  sort  of  funny 
look  in  her  eyes.  In  the  Deep  South,  Mamas  get  very  thoughtful 
about  that  sort  of  thing.  All  I  knew  was  that  the  next  "puttin'-in- 
tobacco"  time  arrived  and  Shine  did  not  show  up  with  it.  1  never 
saw  him  again,  but  I  remember  him  and  love  him  to  this  day. 

By  July,  the  leaves  on  the  thick  stalks  would  be  turning  yellow 
from  the  bottom  up.  You'd  crop  off  the  yellow  ones — what's 
known  as  "ripe"  tobacco — and  come  back  in  a  week  and  keep 
going  up  the  stalk.  Just  break  them  off  with  your  hands  and  stack 
them  up  in  your  arms,  that's  the  way  I  used  to  do  it.  Then  I'd 
carry  iny  stack  to  the  nearest  little  truck  that  would  be  towed 
between  the  rows  by  mules.  In  case  you  haven't  gathered  by  now, 
our  Johnston  County  mules  were  very  educated.  You  hardly 
needed  to  tell  them,  "Get  up"  or  "Whoa!"  If  you  did,  they'd  look 
at  you  as  if  you  were  out  of  your  mind.  They  knew  what  it  was 
all  about.  In  fact,  I'm  surprised  they  didn't  have  a  mule  union  to 
protect  their  interests. 

Next,  the  bundles  of  leaves  were  strung  up  on  tobacco  sticks. 
This  was  skilled,  swift  work,  and  the  ladies  of  the  household 



would  usually  help  out.  At  the  end  of  the  day,  you'd  take  the 
sticks  to  the  tobacco  barns,  where  the  leaves  would  be  hung  up 
to  dry  in  the  warm  air  that  came  off  a  wood-burning  brick  fur- 

Getting  the  proper  temperature  for  the  inside  of  the  barn  was 
the  crux  of  the  operation.  At  ninety  to  ninety-five  degrees,  you'd 
begin  to  see  the  yellow  color  you  wanted.  Then  you'd  build  the 
temperature  to  about  a  hundred  and  twenty-five,  at  which  point 
the  little  veins  in  the  leaves  would  begin  to  dry.  But  the  thick 
stems,  the  largest  part  of  the  leaf,  would  still  have  a  lot  of 
moisture  in  them.  So  you  would  let  the  heat  run  up  to  about  a 
hundred  and  sixty  to  one  hundred  and  eighty  degrees  to  dry  that 
part  out,  too. 

To  get  all  this  right,  you  had  to  literally  live  with  the  tobacco. 
Night  and  day,  you  had  to  be  there.  I  used  to  go  and  sleep  nights 
in  the  barn  with  Daddy,  and  he'd  point  his  finger  at  the  ther- 
mometer and  explain  to  me  that  if  the  temperature  wasn't  exactly 
right,  the  crop  would  be  ruined.  I  thought  it  was  all  terribly  excit- 
ing, and,  what  with  the  lamplight,  the  hot  air  and  the  sense  of 
being  there  when  everything  important  was  going  on,  I  guess  it 

Once  the  stem  was  dried  and  the  tobacco  cured — a  process 
that  took  about  six  days — the  leaf  would  be  almost  stiff;  we 
called  it  "killed  out."  The  next  step  was  letting  it  come  "into 
order,"  which  meant  opening  the  bam  doors  and  letting  the  night 
air  in  to  soften  the  leaf.  That  also  needed  a  lot  of  experience, 
because  if  the  leaf  got  too  brittle,  it  would  crumble. 

At  this  point,  everything  would  be  graded  into  different 
classes,  from  the  best  to  the  worst.  I  can  still  see  Aunt  Ava,  the 
only  aunt  I  knew  from  Daddy's  side  of  the  family,  sitting  at  the 
long  grading  bench,  which  was  divided  into  little  pens.  She  would 
inspect  each  leaf  as  carefully  as  you'd  examine  material  for  a 
fancy  dress.  The  very  finest  leaf  was  first  class,  then  came  second 
and  third  and  down  to  what  they  called  the  trash. 

Finally,  in  the  latter  part  of  August,  the  warehouse  would  open 
up  in  Smithfield,  and  you'd  start  laying  your  tobacco  out  on  the 
floor  for  examination  by  the  auctioneers  representing  the  various 
tobacco  companies.  It  was  a  scary  time,  because  the  crop  you  had 
worked  so  hard  on  for  all  those  months  was  out  there  taking  its 
chances  with  everyone  else's. 



When  it  came  to  prices,  I  think  the  best  we  ever  did  was  about 
twenty-five  cents  a  pound,  and  that  didn't  last.  I  can  remember 
how  Daddy's  hand  gripped  harder  and  harder  in  mine  as  the 
prices  were  called,  and  how  the  faces  of  some  of  the  farmers  were 
gray  with  anxiety  as  they  left  the  auction  hall  "Jesus  Christ,  all 
they're  offering  is  ten  cents  a  pound,"  they'd  say.  "God  almighty, 
we  were  getting  nine  cents  a  pound  when  they  first  opened  the 
auction  halls  in  1898.  How  do  they  expect  us  to  stay  alive?" 

I  was  seven  years  old  when  the  stock  market  crashed  in  1929. 1 
didn't  even  know  what  a  stock  market  was,  let  alone  a  Depres- 
sion. All  I  was  curious  about  was  what  my  older  sisters  were  up 
to.  Especially  Bappie,  who'd  gotten  fed  up  with  William  con- 
stantly chasing  girls  and  had  decided  to  divorce  him.  And,  honey, 
was  that  ever  a  scandal  There  had  never  been  a  divorce  in  either 
the  Baker  or  the  Gardner  family,  but  Bappie  just  said,  "Aw,  what 
the  hell,  there's  gonna  be  one  now." 

Not  only  did  she  get  that  divorce,  she  sailed  off  to  get  a  job  in 
New  York  City!  She  wrote  regularly  to  Mama,  though,  and  you 
didn't  have  to  read  far  between  the  lines  to  know  that  Bappie 
was  having  a  very  hard  time.  She  understood  about  the  Depres- 
sion, all  right,  even  if  I  didn't.  I  had  not  even  an  inkling  that 
during  the  next  few  months  my  world  was  going  to  collapse 
around  me. 

Daddy  and  Mama  knew.  Daddy  knew  because  of  falling  prices 
and  what  was  happening  in  the  countryside.  Mama  heard  rumors 
that  soon  became  reality.  The  Brogden  school  authorities  had  to 
make  cuts  in  line  with  the  faltering  economy.  The  Teacherage 
system  was  just  too  expensive.  The  seven  teachers  would  have  to 
find  other  lodgings,  pay  for  their  own  accommodations,  do  their 
own  cooking  and  cleaning,  and  drive  or  walk  to  school.  So 
Mama  was  out  of  a  job,  and  Daddy's  tenant  farming  was  not 
enough  to  make  us  a  living. 

But  Mama  had  a  good  friend  in  Newport  News,  the  huge  ship- 
building port  and  navy  base  up  North  on  the  Virginia  coast.  This 
friend  ran  a  boardinghouse  that  catered  to  shipyard  workers,  and 
she  knew  of  a  similar  place  that  Mama  could  take  over.  There 
would  be  no  shortage  of  boarders  who  were  sure  to  love  Mama's 
cooking  and  care,  and  Daddy  might  be  able  to  get  a  job  up  there 
as  well. 

As  if  he  could.  Daddy  was  now  fifty-five.  He  had  been  born  in 



the  country  and  raised  to  be  a  farmer.  He'd  lived  and  toiled  on 
the  land,  loved  its  sunsets  and  sunrises  and  the  friends  it  brought 
him.  It  didn't  seem  possible  that  he  could  tear  up  these  roots  and 

Mama,  though,  was  different,  and  so  was  I.  I  really  took  it  all 
in  my  stride.  Of  course  I  was  sorry  to  leave  my  friends  and  the 
farm,  but  those  twelve  years  of  country  life  had  left  me  with  a 
naive  kind  of  spunky  confidence.  I'd  have  to  go  to  a  new  school, 
make  new  school  friends  .  .  .  but  so  what. 

What  was  more  worrying  was  Daddy's  cough.  It  had  been  per- 
sistent for  quite  a  while  now,  even  growing  worse  despite  all  the 
cough  medicines  Mama  was  always  pouring  down  his  throat. 
After  a  while,  I  just  got  used  to  hearing  it. 



hen  you  are  poor,  dirt  poor,  and  there 
is  no  way  of  concealing  it,  life  is  hell  In 
the  country,  where  there  is  work  and 
food  and  friends  of  the  same  age  and  background,  you  may  never 
know  you're  poor.  But  when  you  restart  life  in  a  big  city,  oh, 
baby,  does  that  condition  begin  to  hurt. 

When  you  are  thirteen,  fourteen,  fifteen  and  you  have  to  go  to 
school  every  day  in  the  same  little  green  coat  that  Mama  bought 
at  a  cheap  sale,  and  the  one  skirt  and  the  same  sweater  that  you 
wash  every  other  night  and  smooth  out  to  dry,  you  know  you  are 
poor.  For  four  years,  one  coat,  one  sweater  ...  all  I  wanted  to  do 
was  die.  You're  an  adolescent,  you're  pretty,  oh,  how  you'd  give 
anything,  hold  your  breath,  for  something  pretty  to  wear. 

I  should  have  known  that  first  day  we  set  off  in  our  old  bor- 
rowed car  to  drive  to  Newport  News  that  things  were  going  to  be 
difficult.  It  wasn't  all  that  far — a  hundred  miles  at  the  most — but 
crammed  into  the  backseat  and  holding  onto  my  dog  Prince  for 
dear  life,  it  seemed  like  a  thousand  to  me.  Then,  when  we 
stopped  for  gas  at  a  filling  station,  Prince  leapt  out  and  took  off.  I 
shouted  after  him  but  he  didn't  stop.  We  waited  and  waited  but 
he  didn't  come  back.  I  pleaded  with  Mama  and  Daddy  to  wait 
even  longer,  but  they  finally  said,  "Ava,  honey,  we've  got  to 
move  on.  He  might  never  come  back."  And  he  never  did. 

We  reached  Newport  News.  It  was  a  real  city,  a  hell  of  a  lot 
bigger  than  even  Smithfield.  Our  boardinghouse  stood  on  a  side 
street  near  the  James  River.  It  was  a  big,  three-story  clapboard 



building,  a  bit  run-down  and  in  sore  need  of  a  coat  of  paint. 
Mania  not  only  kept  it  spotless,  she  also  cooked  three  meals  a 
day  for  the  dozen  or  more  shipyard  workers  who  were  our 
boarders.  And  there  was  none  of  this  "just  orange  juice  and  cof- 
fee" nonsense  for  these  characters.  They  got  bacon  and  eggs,  grits 
and  hash  and  hot  biscuits  for  breakfast,  and  meals  just  as  big  for 
lunch  and  dinner.  Once  in  a  while,  a  marvelous  black  woman 
named  Virginia  would  come  in  to  help,  but  basically  Mama  did  it 
all.  She  was  so  strong,  and  she  worked  so  hard. 

At  my  new  school,  I  discovered  soon  enough  that  compared  to 
the  upper-crust  tones  of  Virginia,  my  North  Carolina  twang  was 
something  fit  only  to  be  laughed  at.  On  my  very  first  day,  the 
lady  teacher  called  me  out  to  answer  questions  in  front  of  the 
whole  class.  After  all,  I  was  the  new  girl,  this  strange  little  hill- 

"Your  name?" 

"Ava  Gardner."  The  accent  was  pure  Johnston  County,  died- 
in-the-wool  country.  The  teacher  smiled,  the  other  girls  howled 
with  laughter. 

"And  what  does  your  father  do?" 

"He's  a  farmer." 

Even  more  laughter.  Imagine  a  farmer  in  a  shipbuilding  town 
like  Newport  News.  I  didn't  think  it  was  funny  at  all.  In  fact,  my 
blood  still  boils  when  I  think  of  how  that  teacher  went  out  of  her 
way  to  humiliate  me.  She  could  have  taken  me  aside  and  asked 
me  the  questions  quietly  and  sympathetically,  but  she  didn't.  And 
you  never  forget  or  forgive  that  kind  of  treatment. 

One  thing  was  true,  though.  There  were  no  jobs  for  tobacco 
farmers  in  Newport  News.  For  some  reason,  maybe  boredom, 
maybe  desperation,  Daddy  went  off  to  spend  some  time  with 
Bappie  in  New  York.  He  came  back  to  Newport  News  with  his 
cough  made  worse  by  this  terrible  chest  cold,  and  from  then  on, 
poor  darling,  he  never  had  another  well  day.  Looking  back  now  I 
know  that  Daddy  faced  up  to  life  and  the  bitter  defeats  it  brought 
with  a  quiet  courage.  They  say  that  the  last  enemy  is  death,  and 
Daddy  was  facing  him  in  his  usual  quiet,  orderly  way. 

When  he  first  got  back,  Daddy  had  to  go  into  the  hospital  for  a 
week  or  two.  The  doctors  said  he  had  a  streptococcal  infection  of 
the  bronchial  tubes.  There  were  no  drugs  for  that  sort  of  thing  in 
those  days  and  we  had  no  money  for  hospitals  either.  When 



Daddy  came  back  home5  Mama  arranged  for  all  of  us  to  sleep  in 
one  little  room  about  the  size  of  a  bathroom.  For  over  a  year,  I 
slept  on  a  pallet  on  the  floor,  until  Daddy  got  so  sick  that  the 
sound  of  his  coughing  kept  us  all  awake.  Then  Mama  had  to  take 
one  of  the  rooms  just  down  the  hall,  which  she  could  have  rented 
out  to  a  shipyard  worker,  and  moved  Daddy  in  there. 

I  shall  never  forget  Mama  in  those  hard  days.  She'd  given 
Daddy  a  little  bell  that  he  could  ring  if  he  wanted  anything,  and 
when  that  bell  tinkled  upstairs  Mama  would  leave  whatever  she 
was  doing  and  race  up  the  stairs  and  open  his  door  with  a  smile 
on  her  face.  Not  a  fake  smile,  a  real  one. 

I  only  saw  my  mother  cry  twice  in  her  life.  The  first  time  was 
back  in  Brogden,  when  Daddy  had  had  one  white  lightning  too 
many  the  night  before,  and  she  probably  figured  that  a  few  tears 
wouldn't  do  any  harm  in  bringing  home  the  seriousness  of  the 
offense.  But  the  second  time,  in  the  kitchen  in  Newport  News, 
broke  my  heart. 

She  came  in  from  the  markets  with  her  heavy  shopping  bags 
and  plonked  them  down  on  the  floor.  She  sat  at  the  table,  put  her 
head  in  her  hands,  and  began  to  cry.  She  wept  uncontrollably; 
her  grief  was  endless.  I  didn't  know  what  to  do.  I  didn't  know 
what  to  say.  She  told  me  she  was  crying  because  her  feet  hurt, 
but  I  knew  it  was  because  events  had  somehow  overwhelmed  her. 
I  went  and  put  my  arm  around  her,  and  eventually  she  stopped 
crying,  wiped  her  eyes,  and  smiled. 

Mama  had  this  lovely  natural  warmth,  an  enormous  capacity 
for  love  and  fun.  She  even  loved  all  those  shipyard  boarders — she 
considered  them  all  her  children,  just  as  all  those  young  women 
had  been  when  she  was  running  the  Teacherage.  Coming  from  a 
household  of  nineteen,  I  guess  having  a  large  family  was  part  of 
her  heart. 

My  own  feelings  were  different.  I  know  now  that  our  boarders 
were  all  hardworking  folks,  but  at  the  time  they  seemed  like  terri- 
bly revolting  old  men  to  me.  I  hated  their  scruffiness  and  their 
newspapers  all  over  the  floor,  and  I  hated  their  eyes  as  they 
looked  at  me.  They  never  touched  me,  but  they  tried  to  flirt,  and 
even  though  I  was  only  thirteen  years  old,  I  instinctively  knew 
what  was  going  on.  I  wasn't  ashamed  of  my  parents,  but  I  was 
ashamed  of  that  house.  I  was  ashamed  of  all  those  men  who  were 
always  sitting  or  lying  around.  I  couldn't  bring  a  girlfriend  home, 



and  as  for  a  boyfriend  .  .  .  that  was  potentially  an  even  more 
embarrassing  situation. 

I  was  growing  into  adolescence  in  Newport  News,  and  I  have 
to  say  that  Mama  was  not  very  helpful  to  a  teenage  girl.  We  may 
not  have  been  very  deeply  into  religion,  but  into  sex  we  were  not 
at  all.  Nothing  was  ever  talked  about;  Mother  never  ever  told  me 
anything.  Even  having  had  seven  children  made  no  difference. 
The  subject  was  forbidden.  If  it  weren't  for  the  older  girlfriends  I 
made  at  Newport  News  High  School,  my  ignorance  in  that  area 
would  have  been  total. 

In  fact,  I  can  clearly  remember  the  moment  when  Mama  finally 
realized  I  was  growing  up.  I  was  in  the  kitchen  with  her;  she  was 
sassing  me  and  I  was  sassing  her  right  back.  Now,  Mama  didn't 
take  kindly  to  her  young  'un  being  cheeky  in  her  own  kitchen, 
and  she'd  raised  her  hand  to  reestablish  discipline.  I  was  getting 
ready  to  duck  when  she  looked  down  at  me  and,  I  swear  to  God, 
for  the  first  time  she  noticed  what  was  happening  to  my  figure. 
Well,  she  might  not  have  blushed,  but  she  sure  was  confused.  She 
had  a  young  lady  here,  and  you  don't  take  swipes  at  young 
ladies.  Mama  lowered  her  hand  and  covered  her  embarrassment 
with  a  gruff,  "And  what's  more  111  put  a  bra  on  you,  young  'un." 

After  that,  Mama  never  lifted  a  hand  against  me  as  long  as  she 
lived.  And  Bappie  intervened  at  some  point  and  said,  "Don't  you 
put  a  bra  on  that  child  until  I  bring  a  proper  one  down  from  New 
York."  In  those  years,  breasts  were  considered  slightly  improper 
and  had  to  be  flattened  out,  and  Bappie  wanted  to  spare  me  one 
of  the  methods  used  in  North  Carolina:  tying  a  baby's  diaper 
around  them  and  fastening  it  tightly  behind  with  a  safety  pin. 

With  all  this  going  on,  you  can  imagine  just  how  terrified  I  was 
on  the  morning  of  my  first  period.  I  knew  you  didn't  talk  about 
those  things,  especially  not  to  Mama.  So  I  flew  to  Virginia,  the 
lovely  fat  lady  who  helped  Mama  out  in  the  kitchen,  whispering 
desperately  that  I  was  bleeding  to  death.  Virginia  hugged  me  to 
her  and  exclaimed  at  the  top  of  her  voice  some  of  the  most  won- 
derful words  I've  ever  heard  in  my  whole  life: 

"Oh,  Lord,  honeychile.  Bless  you,  bless  you.  Honeychile, 
you're  a  little  woman  now!  A  little  woman!" 

In  a  couple  of  sentences  she'd  restored  my  faith  in  the  world, 
but  there  was  more  trouble  in  store.  I  had  to  go  to  the  drugstore 



to  buy  Kotex,  the  man  behind  the  counter  handing  me  the  pack- 
age with  a  grave  face,  an  ordeal  I  remember  to  this  day. 

Next  came  my  baptism.  It  was  considered  very  fashionable  by 
all  the  girls  at  school;  you  simply  had  to  do  it.  With  my  body 
changing  the  way  it  was,  I  was  worried  about  the  ceremony,  so  I 
went  to  see  the  parson.  He  wasn't  in,  so  I  confided  my  dilemma 
to  his  wife,  and  she — and  111  never  forgive  her — said  in  a  lordly 
fashion,  "Oh,  don't  worry,  dear.  God  will  take  care  of  every- 

And  God  didn't  take  care  of  anything. 

Unlike  North  Carolina,  where  baptisms  often  took  place  in  a 
river  near  the  chapel,  our  local  Baptist  church  came  complete 
with  a  sort  of  deep  concrete  bath  behind  the  pulpit.  That  location 
meant,  however,  that  everyone  in  the  congregation  could  have  a 
super  view  of  what  was  going  on.  I  was  put  in  a  thin  shift  and 
dunked  deep  under  the  water.  When  I  came  up,  the  fabric  had 
turned  sheer  and  stuck  to  me  in  such  a  way  that  my  whole  body 
was  plainly  revealed,  and  what  seemed  like  a  thousand  shocked 
eyes  were  staring  at  me. 

I  felt  humiliated,  totally  shamed.  It  was  the  worst  experience  I 
have  ever  had  in  my  whole  life.  I  hated  religion  for  having  ex- 
posed me  in  this  fashion.  And  when  I  went  around  to  this  same 
preacher  and  asked  shyly  if  he  might  perhaps  come  and  talk  to 
Daddy,  because  he  was  very  lonely,  he  never  did.  Maybe  we 
weren't  good  enough  Christians  for  that. 

So  Daddy  just  lay  there  and  slowly  died.  Daddy  was  never  a 
complainer,  so  you  wouldn't  have  known  whether  he  was  in  pain 
or  not,  but  I'm  sure  that  racking  cough  must  have  been  terrible. 
As  often  as  I  could,  I  went  up  to  his  room  and  read  the  papers  to 
him.  He  loved  hearing  about  politics,  he  adored  President  Roose- 
velt, and  just  being  near  him  gave  me  a  sort  of  peace  and  reas- 
surance. But  when  he'd  fall  asleep  while  I  was  reading,  Pd  get 
angry,  thinking:  Why  doesn't  he  stay  awake  and  listen?  But  I 
suppose  that  was  just  the  unthinking  selfishness  of  childhood. 

Daddy  died  in  the  hospital  in  Newport  News,  but  we  took  him 
back  to  North  Carolina  and  buried  him  in  the  graveyard  where 
generations  of  Gardners  lay.  At  the  time  I  thought,  I'll  survive.  It 
wasn't  until  much  later  that  I  found  out  how  much  I  missed  him, 
found  out  that  some  part  of  me  lay  in  that  grave  with  him.  Years 
later,  and  another  lifetime  away,  at  Grace  Kelly's  wedding  in 



Monaco,  I  watched  her  strong,  vibrant  father  walk  her  down  the 
aisle  and  I  couldn't  help  but  think,  If  only  I  had  a  father  like  him 
to  lean  on.  I  still  carry  a  deep  sense  of  guilt  because  I  feel  I  didn't 
do  enough  to  help  Daddy  in  those  last  sad  days.  I  torture  myself 
with  having  failed  him,  I  truly  do. 

Whether  I  was  prepared  or  not,  though,  my  life  was  moving 
on,  and  it  was  as  a  sophomore  at  Newport  News  High  School 
that  I  had  my  first  date.  And  what  girl  ever  forgets  her  first  date! 
His  name  was  Dick  Alerton.  Not  only  was  he  a  senior,  but  he 
was  handsome,  a  football  player,  and  very  bright  to  boot.  He 
was  also,  and  this  was  one  of  the  things  that  was  made  quite 
clear  in  those  days,  from  a  different  social  class  than  me. 

One  of  my  girlfriends,  who  was  also  in  his  social  class,  brought 
him  over  to  meet  me  one  morning,  so  I  guess  he'd  checked  me 
out  beforehand.  I  looked  at  him,  and  oh,  my  God,  in  one  second, 
I  was  in  love.  He  asked  me  for  a  date,  and  I  said  yes.  That  after- 
noon, I  tried  to  tidy  up  the  living  room  just  in  case  I  couldn't 
intercept  him  at  the  front  door  and  he  had  to  come  in.  I  tried  so 
hard.  The  shade  over  the  front  window,  an  old  pull-down  thing, 
was  in  tatters,  so  I  took  a  pair  of  scissors  and  trimmed  off  the 
edges,  but  it  still  looked  dreadful. 

Dick  had  a  car,  a  little  Buick,  and  as  soon  as  it  pulled  up  I  was 
out  the  door  so  fast  I  don't  even  think  Mama  knew  I  was  miss- 
ing. We  went  to  the  movies,  which  is  what  a  date  meant  in  those 
days,  but  I  can't  say  as  I  remember  the  film.  I  felt  so  awfully  shy  I 
was  shaking  inside.  I  didn't  know  what  to  say — I  didn't  have 
anything  to  say.  Afterward,  we  went  to  a  little  drive-in  joint  for 
hamburgers,  and  as  we  drove  along  I  read  the  neon  signs  as  my 
attempt  at  making  conversation:  "Gulf  Oil ...  Dairy  Queen  .  .  . 
Joe's  Burgers."  I  couldn't  have  been  much  more  than  fourteen 
years  old.  If  I  hadn't  been  so  shy  and  frightened,  I'm  sure  Dick 
would  have  been  very  friendly.  As  it  was,  he  never  asked  me  out 

The  fact  that  I  can't  remember  what  film  Dick  and  I  saw  tells 
me  a  lot  about  how  confused  my  state  of  mind  must  have  been, 
because  at  that  time  I  adored  films.  And  above  all  other  actors,  I 
adored  Clark  Gable.  I'd  seen  him  in  Red  Dust  with  Jean  Harlow. 
I  practically  swooned  when  he  took  off  his  shirt  in  It  Happened 
One  Night.  I  didn't  even  hold  it  against  him  when  he  let  his  eye 
rove  over  those  Tahitian  girls  in  Mutiny  on  the  Bounty.  And  the 



fact  that  most  of  the  women  in  the  civilized  world  felt  the  same 
way  I  did  meant  nothing  to  me.  I  reserved  to  myself  certain  pro- 
prietary rights.  Clark,  I  was  sure,  would  understand  my  adora- 

And  more  than  anything  else,  I  wanted  Clark  Gable  to  play 
Rhett  Butler  in  the  forthcoming  version  of  Gone  With  the  Wind. 
Now  novels,  even  big-selling  ones,  didn't  usually  find  their  way 
into  my  life,  but,  in  a  burst  of  intuition,  our  English  teacher  had 
announced  it  as  the  class  literary  project  for  the  next  semester. 
We  fell  on  the  book  like  small  wolves,  devouring  it.  I  read  it  all, 
then  I  read  it  again.  The  image  of  Scarlett,  Melanie  and  Ashley 
lounging  on  the  veranda  of  Tara  was  etched  in  my  heart.  I  could 
smell  the  perfume  of  the  dogwood,  see  the  blaze  of  lilac  and 
azaleas,  not  to  mention  those  bright  dark  eyes  and  divine  smile  of 
Mr.  Butler.  After  all,  the  great  plantation  houses  of  Georgia  had 
been  just  down  the  road  a  piece  from  North  Carolina.  And  all  us 
girls  were  Southern  ladies  at  heart,  just  waiting  for  our  own  ver- 
sion of  Rhett  Butler  to  appear  from  behind  a  cloud  of  cherry 
blossoms.  When  Clark  finally  got  the  role,  I  felt  that  my  fervent 
wishes  just  must  have  played  a  part. 

Unfortunately,  no  fictional  heroes  were  around  to  solve  the 
problems  facing  Mama  and  me.  And  one  fact  was  becoming  in- 
creasingly clear.  The  boardinghouse  income  was  barely  enough 
to  keep  us  going.  We  had  no  money.  I  had  to  go  to  work. 

I  approached  Mama  with  my  big  decision.  Pd  leave  school  and 
get  a  job  somewhere.  Mama  just  about  had  a  fit. 

"Now  listen  here,  young  'un,"  she  said.  "The  most  important 
thing  that's  happening  to  you  now  is  your  education.  You're 
going  to  keep  going  to  school  here  ..."  There  was  a  momentary 
hesitation,  and  I  knew  that  Mama  had  something  else  on  her 
mind.  She  could  no  more  conceal  a  secret  than  she  could  tell  a  lie. 
"At  least,"  she  added  finally,  "until  the  end  of  this  semester." 

"And  then  what?" 

"We  might  go  back  to  North  Carolina." 

That  was  exciting  news,  all  right.  "Back  to  Brogden?"  I  asked. 

"No,  but  to  the  same  sort  of  job.  And  to  Wilson  County, 
which  is  next  door  to  Johnston.  You've  been  to  Wilson  County. 
The  place  is  called  Rock  Ridge.  But  you  finish  out  your  semester 
here  first." 

We  did  go  back  to  North  Carolina,  as  broke  as  when  we  left. 



And  when  I  returned  to  school  there,  I  faced  another  dilemma. 
Back  in  Newport  News,  since  I  was  on  a  secretarial  track,  I'd 
been  allowed  to  bypass  subjects  like  math,  history,  and  French  to 
concentrate  almost  entirely  on  typing  and  shorthand.  But  the  au- 
thorities at  the  Rock  Ridge  Teacherage  stated  flatly  that  in  order 
to  get  my  diploma,  I  had  to  find  room  in  my  schedule  for  most  of 
the  subjects  I'd  abandoned  in  Newport  News.  Which  meant  I  had 
to  compress  two  years  of  study  into  one.  That  was  one  damn 
hard  year,  I  can  tell  you. 

But  just  when  I  felt  I  deserved  a  reward,  my  rascally  brother 
Jack,  who  had  a  good  job  by  then,  came  up  with  a  surprise. 

"Ava,  honey,"  he  said  in  that  laughing,  cheerful  voice  of  his. 
"You're  going  to  round  off  your  education  with  a  year  at  the 
Atlantic  Christian  College  in  Wilson.  And  I'm  going  to  pay  for 

Atlantic  Christian  may  not  have  been  Harvard,  but  it  was  a 
fine  college,  and  it  included  all  the  odds  and  ends  that  go  with  a 
college  education:  sororities,  football  and  baseball  teams,  drama 
and  debating  societies.  Once  again,  I  concentrated  on  shorthand 
and  typing.  We  still  had  no  money,  and  I  had  to  be  driven  in 
every  day  by  a  girlfriend  who  lived  nearby,  and  driven  back  every 

And  Mama,  bless  her,  still  ruled  my  private  life  with  the  strict- 
ness of  a  mother  superior  in  the  Carmelite  order.  Oh,  yes,  I  was 
allowed  a  boyfriend,  but  hanky-panky  of  any  sort  was  strictly 
forbidden.  We  stole  a  kiss  or  two  between  hand-holding,  but  that 
was  it.  I  knew  all  the  kids  at  school  were  necking  like  crazy  in  the 
backseats  of  cars,  but  I  never  did.  Things  like  that,  I'd  been  told 
in  no  uncertain  terms,  were  beyond  the  bounds  of  propriety,  and 
I  was  too  scared  of  Mama  to  disagree.  Mama  did  not  approve  of 
premarital  sex  at  all.  "If  you  know  a  man  before  you're  mar- 
ried," she'd  say  to  me  like  she  meant  it,  "I'll  see  you  six  feet 
under  the  ground."  My  upbringing  was  totally  Victorian;  I  grew 
up  an  old-fashioned,  God-fearing  girl,  taught  that  marriage  and 
motherhood  were  honorable  achievements.  And  Mama  was  the 
eternal  watchdog,  intent  on  seeing  that  I  stayed  honorable  until 
the  bitter  end. 

I  must  have  been  seventeen.  It  was  New  Year's  Eve  and  I  had 
gone  to  a  dance  with  a  neighborhood  boy  I  liked  very  much  and 
had  dated  before.  By  the  time  we  got  back  to  the  house  and  stood 



under  the  blazing  porch  light,  it  was  one  o'clock  in  the  morning. 
As  we  said  good  night  at  the  door,  he  took  me  in  his  arms  and 
kissed  me.  It  was  a  gentle  kiss,  not  passionate,  and  I  responded  in 

We  hadn't  been  there  for  more  than  two  seconds  before  Mama 
crashed  through  that  screen  door  like  a  bull  out  of  a  trap.  Honest 
to  God,  I  thought  she  was  going  to  kill  us  both.  That  boy  was 
scared  shitless.  She  chased  him  back  to  his  car  and  then  came 
back  yelling  at  me,  "It's  disgraceful!  How  could  you  do  it?  I  will 
not  have  my  youngest  daughter  behaving  in  such  a  wanton  man- 
ner." And  that  was  the  printable  part.  The  rest  of  the  things 
Mama  called  me  don't  bear  repeating.  It's  enough  to  say  I  never 
was  so  mortified  in  my  life.  I  remember  going  to  my  room  and 
scrubbing  my  face  and  hands  over  and  over  in  an  attempt  to 
wash  off  some  of  the  dirt  I  was  sure  I  had  contracted  from  that 

Later  on  I  thought:  Gee,  a  kiss  on  the  porch  after  a  New  Year's 
dance?  It  wasn't  like  we'd  been  sneaking  around  in  the  bushes,  or 
even  been  necking  in  his  car.  But  as  I've  said,  Mama  was  pure 
Victorian,  and  when  you  see  some  of  what's  going  on  these  days, 
maybe  her  ideas  weren't  all  that  bad. 



hen  people  ask  me  about  how  I  got 
into  the  damn  picture  business  in  the 
first  place,  I  just  have  to  smile.  Because 
the  truth  is,  if  my  sister  Bappie  hadn't  decided  on  the  spur  of  the 
moment  to  drop  into  Tarr's  photographic  studio  on  the  corner 
of  Fifth  Avenue  and  Sixty-third  Street  in  New  York  City,  I  proba- 
bly would've  ended  up  happy  as  a  clam  plugging  away  behind 
a  typewriter  somewhere  in  North  Carolina  for  the  rest  of  my 

While  Mama  and  I  were  doing  the  best  we  could  back  home, 
Bappie  had  been  making  her  way  in  the  big  city.  She  was  work- 
ing at  I.  Miller,  running  her  own  section  in  the  handbag  and  ac- 
cessories department,  in  fact.  She  had  a  Canadian  boyfriend  who 
had  gone  back  home  for  a  short  while  to  consider  their  future, 
and  he'd  written  to  Bappie  asking  for  a  photo  to  keep  him  com- 

There  were  Tarr  photographic  studios  dotted  all  over  New 
York  in  those  days,  but  the  branch  Bappie  had  chosen  was  run  by 
Larry  Tarr,  one  of  the  founder's  sons.  Larry  took  one  look  at 
Bappie,  and  she  at  him,  and  to  hell  with  a  photo  to  send  to  this 
Canadian  guy.  Larry  made  a  big  pitch  for  Bappie  right  on  the 
spot,  and  they  had  a  mad,  whirlwind  love  affair  and  got  married 
almost  before  the  news  had  time  to  reach  home. 

Mama  and  I  got  our  first  taste  of  Larry  when  we  went  up  to 
visit  the  newlyweds  the  first  summer  after  their  marriage.  He 
turned  out  to  be  rather  short,  but  very  dapper.  Not  particularly 



good-looking  but  brash,  confident,  irrepressible,  and  irresistible 
in  the  way  New  Yorkers  can  sometimes  be.  He  took  a  shine  to  me 
at  once,  which  was  pretty  fortunate  considering  that  I  came  back 
without  Mama  every  summer  afterward.  A  born  promoter,  Larry 
loved  staying  up  late  as  much  as  I  did,  and  it  gave  him  a  kick 
to  take  this  impressionable  kid  to  the  kinds  of  nightspots  that 
featured  a  dozen  beautiful  girls  all  about  ten  feet  tall  wear- 
ing nothing  more  than  a  handful  of  feathers.  "Dollface,"  he  liked 
to  say.  "You  think  you're  beautiful  Look  at  that!  Just  look  at 

It  was  in  New  York  that  I  saw  my  first  film  star.  1  was  all  of 
sixteen,  dressed  just  right  by  Bappie,  carrying  little  white  gloves 
and  a  little  bag.  The  three  of  us  were  at  a  club  that  featured  a  live 
orchestra,  and  when  I  looked  across  the  room,  there  was  Henry 
Fonda,  chatting  with  this  very  attractive  woman.  "See  who  that 
is?"  I  whispered  excitedly  to  Bappie.  "D'you  think  I  could  get  his 
autograph?  D'you  think  he'd  mind?" 

Larry  overheard  this  and  said,  "Of  course  he  wouldn't  mind. 
Go  on,  Dollface,  walk  across  and  ask  him."  I  approached  very 
timidly  across  the  floor,  never  having  worn  white  gloves  before 
and  feeling  handicapped  by  that  little  handbag.  I  got  to  the  table, 
looked  into  Mr.  Fonda's  face  and,  fumbling  with  my  accessories, 
dropped  them  all,  one  by  one,  onto  the  floor:  first  the  pen,  then 
the  paper,  and  finally  the  damn  handbag. 

Henry  Fonda,  bless  him,  saw  my  total  confusion  and  helped 
me  pick  everything  up.  Immediately  knowing  what  I  was  after,  he 
signed  my  piece  of  paper.  And  his  friend  was  so  sweet — she  even 
asked  me  a  few  questions.  Where  was  I  from?  Did  I  go  to  school? 
And  then  she  said  something  I've  never  forgotten:  "Oh,  you're  a 
lovely  little  girl.  You  should  go  to  Hollywood." 

I  rushed  back  to  tell  Bappie  what  had  happened,  only  to  find 
that  Larry,  whose  promoting  instincts  never  took  a  day  off,  had 
been  busy.  Our  table  was  close  to  the  orchestra,  and  the  band- 
leader, having  watched  me  walk  across  the  floor,  had  engaged 
Larry  in  conversation,  something  that  was  never  hard  to  do.  Big 
bands  were  the  hottest  thing  going  in  those  days,  and  it  seems 
that  the  orchestra  leader  was  eager  to  put  one  together  and  begin 
his  move  toward  stardom.  Only  he  needed  a  pretty  girl  singer  to 
help  him  make  the  trip. 

Isn't  that  a  coincidence?  says  Larry.  That  little  girl  you've  been 



watching — a  nightingale!  Ella  Fitzgerald,  the  Andrews  Sisters, 
might  have  had  the  same  talent  when  they  were  young,  but  Larry 
personally  doubted  it.  The  young  bandleader  was  suitably  im- 
pressed. Could  Larry  see  to  it  that  she  cut  a  disc  of  her  voice?  She 
sure  did  have  the  looks,  and  if  she  had  a  voice  to  match,  the  sky 
was  the  limit. 

Now  I  have  to  admit  that,  like  an  awful  lot  of  girls  my  age,  the 
hope  of  my  life  was  to  stand  in  front  of  a  big-band  orchestra  and 
have  a  crack  at  the  microphone.  Could  I  sing?  Of  course  I  could 
sing.  Mama  could  sing  pretty  as  a  blackbird.  If  you're  half  Scot- 
tish and  half  Irish  and  you  can't  sing,  there  must  be  something 
wrong  with  you.  So  I  left  that  nightclub  feeling  that  my  dream 
was  about  to  be  realized:  I  was  going  to  become  a  singer.  Ad- 
dresses were  exchanged.  And  within  days  Larry  Tarr  had  found  a 
studio  with  a  pianist  where  a  78  disc  could  be  made  and  offered 
to  the  band  leader. 

I  told  Larry  that  the  only  song  I  knew  all  the  words  to  was 
"Amapola."  That  didn't  faze  him  either.  Just  sing  the  song,  and 
let's  get  the  show  on  the  road — that  was  Larry's  philosophy. 
Which  is  how  I  found  myself  in  that  recording  studio  all  alone 
with  a  pianist  and  a  piano.  Thank  God  he  was  a  fairly  under- 
standing sort. 

Where  was  my  music  sheet?  he  asked.  Oh,  dear,  I  didn't  know 
I  had  to  have  one.  I  knew  there  were  songs  on  music  sheets — 
every  piano  top  displayed  them.  But  I  hadn't  brought  one.  Okay, 
that  didn't  matter.  What  did  I  want  to  sing?  Amapola.  Okay. 
What  key? 

That  stumped  me.  Key?  I  didn't  know  what  a  key  was.  You 
opened  a  door  with  a  key.  That  was  about  as  much  as  I  knew 
about  music  in  those  days.  Somehow  we  got  that  worked  out, 
too,  and  I  piped  out  my  little  song.  Larry  handed  the  disc  over  to 
the  bandleader.  More  addresses  were  exchanged.  After  he'd  orga- 
nized the  band  he  was  going  to  send  me  the  lyrics  to  various 
songs  and  we'd  be  set  to  go.  Oh,  my  God,  the  thought  of  it  went 
to  my  head  like  the  rarest  champagne.  Back  at  school,  I  shared 
this  sublime  secret  with  my  special  friends,  and  when  they  oblig- 
ingly leaked  the  news,  baby,  did  that  lift  my  status. 

I  must  have  gone  to  our  country  mailbox  at  least  a  thousand 
times,  but  I  received  not  a  single  note  from  that  bandleader.  Fi- 
nally, the  truth  sank  in.  I  was  not  going  on  tour.  Period.  Oddly 



enough,  though,  I  did  meet  that  bandleader  one  more  time.  He 
was  leading  an  orchestra  at  a  club  in  Los  Angeles  about  eight  or 
nine  years  later  and  I  was  already  established  in  pictures.  He  was 
most  pleasant — most  impressed,  in  fact,  with  what  had  happened 
to  me— and,  I  couldn't  help  but  hope,  torn  with  regret  as  well 
about  his  unfortunate  lack  of  faith  in  the  songbird  from  North 

Larry's  next  chance  to  exercise  his  entrepreneurial  talents  on 
my  behalf  came  when  I  was  at  Atlantic  Christian  College.  This  is 
where  a  man  named  Barney  Duhan,  someone  I  only  met  once 
and  that  years  later,  became  a  key  player  on  the  team  that 
launched  me  into  the  movies.  Barney  eventually  became  a  New 
York  City  cop,  but  at  the  time  he  was  an  errand  boy  working  in 
the  law  department  of  Loews,  Inc.  On  his  rounds,  Barney  often 
passed  by  Larry  Tarr's  showcase  on  Fifth  Avenue,  where  Larry 
had  put  a  picture  of  me.  When  he  saw  my  face  sitting  under  a 
fetching  hat,  he  knew  just  what  to  do. 

Because  it  seems  that  Barney  had  his  own  method  of  getting 
dates.  Whenever  he  saw  a  pretty  girl,  he  worked  hard  to  get  her 
phone  number.  Then,  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  being  a  part  of 
Loews,  he  would  call  up  and  drop  the  magic  words  "MGM  Pic- 
tures" in  every  second  sentence,  adding  the  vague  suggestion 
"talent  scout"  wherever  possible.  How  about  a  cup  of  coffee  or  a 
drink  to  talk  things  over?  One  has  to  admit  that  Barney  in  his 
way  was  every  bit  as  good  an  entrepreneur  as  Larry. 

Barney  breezed  into  Larry's  second-floor  reception  office  and 
started  his  usual  routine.  "Gotta  compliment  you  on  that  photo 
of  that  very  pretty  young  girl  you  show  in  your  window." 

The  receptionist  was  an  experienced  lady,  very  wary  of  smart 
young  New  York  boys  interested  in  pretty  girls. 

"Yes,"  she  said  coolly. 

"You  know  MGM  would  be  very  interested  in  a  girl  with 
those  looks." 

"Would  they?" 

"Sure  would.  Now  if  you  can  let  me  have  her  phone  number,  I 
promise  you  it  will  get  straight  through  to  the  right  people.  I  have 
connections  there." 

"I  am  afraid  that  would  not  be  possible.  We  do  not  give  per- 
sonal details  and  phone  numbers  of  our  models  and  clients  to  the 
general  public." 



"Oh,"  said  Barney. 

"But  I  will  pass  on  your  message  to  Mr.  Larry  Tarr  when  he 
comes  in,  and  no  doubt  he  will  take  the  necessary  action." 

Barney  knew  when  he  had  blown  it. 

"Oh,  sure.  Yeah.  Thanks." 

Barney  left,  having  made  his  sole  contribution  to  the  launching 
of  Ava  Gardner  into  the  film  world.  But  without  knowing  it,  he 
had  lit  the  fuse  that  led  straight  to  Larry. 

When  Larry  heard  about  Barney  Duhan's  visit,  he  immediately 
got  on  the  phone  to  Bappie,  on  fire  with  excitement. 

"Gardner,"  he  said,  "do  you  know  what's  happened?  MGM  is 
interested  in  Ava.  MGM!  When  can  you  get  her  up  here?" 

"Don't  be  silly,  Larry,"  Bappie  said.  "Ava's  in  school,  and 
Mama  wouldn't  hear  about  her  doing  such  a  thing." 

Larry  was  undeterred.  "Well,  we've  got  to  give  them  pictures," 
he  said.  "I'm  blowing  up  everything  that  we've  got  of  her.  The 
whole  staff  is  going  to  work  all  night.  I'll  take  them  over  to 
MGM  myself  tomorrow  morning." 

It  didn't  take  Larry  long  to  discover  that  Barney  Duhan  was 
not  exactly  a  big  name  at  MGM.  But  he  left  the  photographs 
anyway.  Bappie  telephoned  me  back  in  North  Carolina  to  let  me 
know  what  was  happening  and,  honest  to  God,  I  was  not  ex- 
cited. A  singer  with  a  big  swing  band?  Now  that  was  an  idea 
with  magic  in  it.  But  the  thought  of  being  a  movie  star?  Sure, 
I  loved  movies,  but  being  an  actress  had  never  been  on  my 

Larry  must  have  been  a  hell  of  a  photographer,  because  MGM 
liked  those  pictures.  They  said  they  would  like  to  see  me  the  next 
time  I  came  to  New  York.  I  was  to  meet  with  a  Mr.  Marvin 
Schenck,  in  charge  of  talent  and  one  of  the  big  noises  in  the 
MGM  outfit.  So,  on  my  next  school  break,  Mama  and  I  came  up 
to  New  York.  Mama  wasn't  very  well  at  all,  though  I  didn't 
know  the  whole  story  yet,  so  Bappie  came  with  me  on  that  first 

Mr.  Schenck's  office  was  normal  enough:  the  usual  desk, 
chairs,  bookshelves,  files.  I  sat  down  and  he  gave  me  some  sort  of 
a  script  with  a  male  and  female  part.  He  read  for  the  man  and  I 
was  supposed  to  read  for  the  woman.  I'd  never  seen  a  script  be- 
fore, I'd  never  even  read  a  scene  before,  but  that  was  not  my 
main  worry. 



I  was  terribly  afraid  that  my  North  Carolina  accent  made  me, 
as  Bappie  put  it,  'Very,  very  Southern."  She  herself  had  been 
nicknamed  "Dixie"  when  she  first  started  working  for  I.  Miller 
on  chic  Fifth  Avenue,  and  whenever  I'd  visit  and  chat  with  the 
other  salesgirls,  I  would  see  a  great  big  smile  creep  across  their 
faces  every  time  I  opened  my  mouth.  People  used  to  say  I 
dropped  my  g's  like  magnolia  blossoms,  and  I  guess  I  did. 

Mr.  Marvin  Schenck,  however,  was  very  sweet.  He  listened 
attentively  to  the  first  few  sentences  I  said,  and  a  rather  abstract 
expression  gradually  drifted  over  his  face.  I  don't  think  he 
understood  more  than  three  words  out  of  the  twenty  I'd  spoken. 
Finally,  he  gave  up.  "Well,"  he  said,  smiling,  "I  think  a  photo- 
graphic test  would  be  better.  We'll  arrange  that  for,  say  ...  to- 


The  studio  was  quite  a  small  place  over  on  Ninth  Avenue,  and 
it  had  a  tin  roof.  It  was  a  boiling  hot,  humid  summer's  day,  the 
kind  New  York  seems  to  specialize  in,  but  I  didn't  care.  I  sat  in 
that  studio  spellbound  at  what  was  going  on. 

MGM  was  testing  three  people  that  day:  Vaughan  Monroe,  a 
big-band  singer  who'd  made  himself  famous  with  "Ghostriders  in 
the  Sky";  Hazel  Scott,  a  celebrated  black  singer  and  piano  player; 
and  .  .  .  me.  I  couldn't  get  over  poor  Vaughan  Monroe.  His  ears 
stuck  out,  so  they'd  glued  them  back  against  his  head  and  held 
them  in  place  with  a  wire  coathanger  until  they  dried  and  stuck.  I 
wondered  about  all  the  bother.  Didn't  my  idol  Clark  Gable  have 
ears  that  stuck  out?  He  hadn't  done  so  poorly,  had  he? 

Those  two  were  the  important  people  they  were  testing,  I  was 
just  someone  in  between.  I  remember  I  wore  a  dress  that  had 
cost  Mama  the  enormous  sum  of  sixteen  dollars:  a  sort  of  green- 
ish print,  with  a  long,  flared  skirt.  I  wore  a  pair  of  Bappie's 
high-heeled  shoes,  because  all  I  had  were  white  saddle  shoes, 
autographed  all  over  by  the  kids  back  at  Atlantic  Christian  Col- 
lege, wishing  me  luck.  They  were  the  only  pair  I  owned,  and 
since  I'd  had  them  for  a  long  time,  they  were  pretty  turned  up  at 
the  toes. 

I  watched  the  makeup  people  plastering  everyone  with  this 
yellow  pancake  stuff.  It  was  part  of  the  procedure  in  those 
days — something  to  do  with  the  lighting,  they  said.  But  poor 
Hazel  Scott;  it  looked  pretty  horrible  on  her  black  skin.  It  took 
half  an  hour  to  get  Vaughan's  ears  glued  into  place,  and  probably 



the  same  time  to  fix  up  Hazel,  and  I  had  a  very  hard  time  keeping 
my  face  straight  during  all  this  and  not  laughing  out  loud.  When 
a  guy's  sitting  there  with  his  head  in  a  coathanger,  it  is  pretty 

Then  it  came  my  turn  to  go  in  front  of  the  camera.  They  said, 
"Sit  down,"  so  I  sat  down.  They  said,  "Look  right  .  .  .  good. 
Now  look  left  .  .  .  good.  Now  stand  up  ...  good.  Now  walk 
across  the  room  to  that  piano,  pick  up  that  vase  of  flowers,  and 
come  back  here  and  place  it  on  the  table  .  .  .  good." 

I  didn't  think  it  was  good  at  all.  It  seemed  like  a  complete 
waste  of  time  and  I  hoped  they  knew  what  they  were  doing.  Then 
they  recorded  what  they  called  an  interview  test. 

"What  is  your  name?"  And  out  came  that  rolling  Southern 
accent,  "Aa-vah  Gahd-nuh." 

"Are  you  at  school?" 

"Yes,  I'm  at  the  Atlantic  Christian  College  in  Wilson,  North 

"What  courses  are  you  taking?" 

"I'm  taking  a  secretarial  course  in  shorthand  and  typing." 

A  few  more  questions  about  my  life  and  hobbies  and  that  was 
it,  all  delivered  in  my  broad  dialect.  The  last  question  was:  "Now 
we'll  sign  the  contract,  shall  we?" 

Once  you'd  had  a  test,  baby,  you  got  signed  up.  Immediately. 
It  gave  you  no  privileges  to  speak  of,  but  it  held  you  in  their 
power.  No  other  studio,  hearing  that  someone  promising  had 
been  tested  by  MGM,  could  nip  in  and  do  a  doublecross.  Pay? 
Fifty  dollars  a  week  for  seven  years.  As  an  unemployed  trainee 
secretary  it  sounded  like  a  lot  of  money,  but  they  knew  what  they 
were  doing. 

Because  even  if  you  were  lucky  enough  to  have  the  people  in 
Hollywood  ask  you  to  come  out,  you  still  had  to  pay  for  your 
own  food  and  shelter.  And  the  first  year  of  that  seven  years  ran  in 
three-month  periods,  so  if  you  didn't  match  up  to  the  studio's 
requirements  by  the  end  of  the  first  three  months,  you  were  out 
on  a  limb  and  broke,  a  sure  candidate  to  be  back  on  the  next 
train  home. 

The  people  in  New  York  were  shrewd;  they  sent  a  silent  ver- 
sion of  my  test  back  to  MGM.  George  Sidney,  who  later  directed 
me  in  Show  Boat,  was  in  charge  of  selecting  new  talent,  and  he 
liked  what  he  saw.  I  don't  know  whether  or  not  George  used  the 



famous  line,  "Tell  New  York  to  ship  her  out,  she's  a  good  piece 
of  merchandise,5'  but  that  attitude  was  a  good  indication  of  the 
kind  of  treatment  I  had  in  store  for  me. 

Movies  may  not  have  been  a  dream  of  mine,  but  I  will  admit 
straight  away  that  when  I  compared  the  idea  of  a  secretarial  job 
in  Wilson,  North  Carolina,  with  the  chance  of  going  to  Holly- 
wood and  breathing  the  same  air  as  Clark  Gable  .  .  .  Well,  the 
choice  was  not  hard  to  make. 

There  were  however,  two  grave  difficulties  in  the  way.  Mama 
ruled  my  life  completely.  Would  she  let  me  go?  More  impor- 
tantly, Mama  was  very  ill  and  getting  sicker  every  day.  Could  I 
leave  her? 

From  the  time  we  got  back  to  North  Carolina,  I  knew  Mama 
was  sick.  For  one  thing,  she  was  swallowing  aspirin  all  the  time, 
and  I  wondered  what  she  was  taking  all  that  stuff  for.  Poor 
Mama,  she'd  had  her  seven  babies,  but  never  any  medical  atten- 
tion to  speak  of  except  for  a  midwife.  But  she  wouldn't  talk 
about  her  pains  to  anybody.  In  those  days  you  didn't  talk  about 
such  things.  It  was  only  when  my  second  sister,  Elsie  Mae,  came 
down  to  visit  us  one  weekend  that  Mama  told  her  about  the 
bleeding,  and  even  then  they  didn't  tell  me,  I  suppose  Mama 
thought  I  was  too  young  to  know  about  these  women's  com- 
plaints. But  it  wasn't  just  a  complaint,  it  was  cancer — cancer  of 
the  uterus,  and  it  had  been  going  on  for  three  or  four  years. 
Mama  hadn't  wanted  to  complain  or  be  a  nuisance,  or  inconve- 
nience anybody,  so  she'd  just  gone  on  working,  looking  after 
everybody  else  and  hiding  away  her  secret  as  so  many  women  did 
in  those  days.  We  finally  got  her  to  Raleigh  to  see  a  doctor,  but 
by  then  it  was  too  late  for  her  to  have  an  operation.  The  cancer 
had  spread  too  far. 

When  I  took  my  screen  test,  I  still  didn't  know  the  extent  of 
Mama's  illness.  But  Bappie  did,  and  she  remembers  going  with 
Mama  to  view  the  film.  Now,  as  I've  said,  Mama  was  a  great 
movie  fan,  and  she  fairly  glowed  when  she  saw  her  youngest  up 
on  the  screen.  "My  girl's  a  beauty,"  she  said  to  Bappie,  and  she 

Now  came  the  serious  business.  "I  can't  go  with  her,"  she  told 
Bappie.  "But  she  can  go  if  you  go  with  her." 

Bappie  wasn't  so  easily  convinced.  After  all,  she  had  a  good 
job  with  I.  Miller's;  it  had  taken  years  for  her  to  get  to  be  head  of 



her  department.  But  Mama's  word  was  still  law,  and  when  she 
said,  again  very  quietly,  "She  can't  go  without  you,"  that  decided 

So  it  was  arranged  that  Mama  would  go  and  live  with  Inez  and 
her  husband  in  Raleigh.  And  Bappie  and  I  would  catch  the  Ex- 
press to  the  West  Coast  and  Hollywood.  I  had  less  than  no  expe- 
rience, I  didn't  know  anything  about  anything,  but  part  of  me 
had  no  doubt  I'd  end  up  a  movie  queen.  And  even  if  I  didn't,  I 
certainly  didn't  have  a  hell  of  a  lot  to  lose. 



was  seven  years  old  when  Ava  was  born,  and 
I  remember  it  very  well.  It  was  Christmas 
Eve  and  my  brother  Jack  and  I  were  sent 
away  from  home  for  a  little  while.  I  still  believed  in  Santa  Glaus 
back  then,  and  I  was  worried,  afraid  he  wouldn't  come  if  we 
weren't  there.  I  guess  that  was  kind  of  silly,  but  at  that  moment 
Santa  Glaus  meant  more  to  me.  I  probably  didn't  realize  what 
was  going  to  happen. 

We  lived  in  Grabtown,  right  out  in  the  country,  and  Ava  was 
born  at  home.  My  father,  who  had  a  little  country  store,  also 
owned  a  sawmill  and  sawed  the  lumber  and  built  the  house  we 
lived  in.  It  was  a  very  nice-looking  house,  with  five  bedrooms,  a 
living  room,  a  dining  room,  and  a  little  kitchen  that  came  out 
from  the  side  of  the  house.  We  needed  a  lot  of  room  because  my 
father's  sister,  Aunt  Ava,  who  Ava  was  named  for,  lived  with  us 
some  of  the  time. 

My  mother  was  just  a  wonderful  cook;  in  fact,  she  was  noted 
as  the  best  cook  in  Johnston  County.  She  made  the  best  fried 
chicken  around,  and  every  weekend  she'd  bake  two  or  three 
cakes,  whip  'em  up  in  no  time.  She  was  a  very  caring  person,  very 
interested  in  her  children,  as  my  father  was.  My  mother  was  a  bit 
more  outgoing,  and  more  of  disciplinarian,  and  he  was  more 

We  were  a  very  close  family.  I  always  thought  we  had  a  good 
life.  I  didn't  think  of  us  as  dirt  poor,  which  has  been  written  time 
and  time  again,  until  we  are  all  sick  of  reading  it.  I  can  tell  you 



now  we  were  never  dirt  poor.  We  may  have  had  some  homemade 
clothes,  but  we  always  had  plenty  of  good  food.  On  Sunday,  if 
we  had  company  drop  by,  there  was  always  enough  food  for 
everybody.  We  had  a  wonderful  vegetable  garden  and  had  our 
own  cow  for  milk.  I  know  because  I  wanted  to  do  the  milking 
one  time  and  failed.  That  seemed  to  be  my  brother's  job. 

Because  there  were  seven  years  between  Ava  and  me,  I  guess  a 
baby  was  not  expected  when  she  came  along.  Because  of  that,  she 
was  sort  of  special,  and  everybody  did  dote  on  her.  She  had  natu- 
rally curly  hair  that  Mama  had  to  brush  every  morning  before 
she'd  go  to  school,  and  Ava  always  hated  that.  But  in  the  first 
year  of  her  life,  we  thought  she  was  never  going  to  have  any  hair 
at  all.  She  was  kind  of  a  baldheaded  baby;  she  didn't  grow  a  lot 
until  she  was  about  a  year  old. 

Ava  was  sort  of  a  tomboy,  always  climbing  trees.  When  we 
lived  over  at  Brogden,  she  got  halfway  up  to  the  top  of  the 
town's  water  tank.  Everybody  was  so  frightened  to  see  her  up 
there.  Finally,  someone  went  up  and  got  her  down. 

Ava  was  a  pretty  little  girl,  too,  and  everybody  thought  she 
was  so  cute  and  wonderful,  but  to  me  she  was  just  my  baby  sis- 
ter. We  roomed  together  and  we  loved  each  other,  but  I  never  got 
the  impression  that  she  wanted  to  be  in  the  movies.  Mama  loved 
to  go  to  the  movies,  though,  and  she  and  some  of  the  teachers 
from  the  Teacherage  would  get  together  and  go  to  Smithfield  to 
see  one  most  every  week.  Mama  especially  liked  Clark  Gable.  I 
wish  she  could  have  lived  long  enough  to  know  that  Ava  did  a 
movie  with  him. 



hen  Bappie  and  I  stepped  off  the  train 
at  Union  Station  on  the  morning  of 
August  23,  1941,  we  were  immediately 
struck  both  physically  and  emotionally  by  Los  Angeles'  most  en- 
during product:  sunshine.  It  seemed  to  radiate  off  everything, 
even  the  sunglasses  and  smiling  teeth  of  Mr.  Milton  Weiss.  He 
held  out  his  hand  and  said,  "Welcome  to  Hollywood  and 

"Thank  you  very  much,"  Bappie  said.  I  said  nothing.  I  was  still 
overwhelmed  by  what  I'd  seen  during  our  train  journey  across 
the  country.  I  was  green  as  a  spring  tobacco  leaf,  and  trying  to 
hide  my  nervousness  behind  a  fixed  smile. 

Mr.  Weiss,  from  MGM's  publicity  department,  was  a  thin, 
sharp-featured  young  man.  He  wore  a  light  gray  tropical  suit  and 
a  neat-looking  Borsalino  of  the  sort  favored  by  Humphrey 
Bogart.  With  his  pleasant,  deep  voice  and  his  anxiousness  to 
please,  he  was  to  be  our  shepherd  for  the  next  few  days,  breaking 
me  into  the  system. 

On  the  way  to  our  hotel,  in  a  company  car,  no  less,  I  liked  the 
bits  and  pieces  of  L.A.  I  managed  to  see,  the  tall  palm  trees  and 
the  beautiful  houses  surrounded  by  clipped  green  lawns.  The 
hotel,  the  Plaza  on  Vine  Street,  was  right  in  the  heart  of  old  Hol- 
lywood. Sunset,  Hollywood,  and  Santa  Monica  boulevards  were 
only  a  few  blocks  away.  The  intersecting  streets  were  quiet  and 
on  the  narrow  side,  shaded  with  trees  and  lined  with  small  one- 
or  two-story  houses.  The  traffic  wasn't  all  that  heavy,  there  was 



no  smog,  only  sunshine  and  clear  nights  full  of  stars.  It  was  thrill- 

The  next  day  began  with  a  tour  of  the  MGM  lot  in  Culver 
City,  a  site  that  was  definitely  worth  seeing.  Twenty-three  mod- 
ern sound  stages,  great  caverns  of  darkness  as  big  as  aircraft 
hangers,  were  spread  out  over  a  huge  expanse  of  real  estate  that 
eventually  grew  to  a  hundred  and  eighty-seven  acres.  MGM  had 
the  world's  largest  film  lab;  MGM  had  four  thousand  employees; 
MGM  had  a  railway  station,  a  harbor,  even  a  miniature  jungle 
ready  and  waiting  for  a  director  who  might  fancy  it.  But  most  of 
all,  MGM  had  stars.  More  Stars  Than  There  Are  in  Heaven,  one 
studio  ad  claimed,  and  I  sure  as  hell  wasn't  about  to  argue. 

Other  studios  might  have  better  directors,  or  better  writers, 
but  MGM  had  the  stars.  Greta  Garbo.  My  old  heartthrob  Clark 
Gable.  The  Barrymores.  Joan  Crawford.  Spencer  Tracy.  James 
Stewart.  Mickey  Rooney  and  Judy  Garland.  Greer  Garson.  You 
name  it,  MGM  had  it.  Louis  B.  Mayer,  the  man  in  charge,  liked 
to  think  of  the  studio  as  one  big  family.  You  can  guess  who  was 
the  daddy,  and  who  were  the  kids  taking  orders.  A  meeting  with 
L.B.,  I  soon  came  to  understand,  was  to  be  treated  as  kind  of  a 
papal  encounter. 

In  his  own  fashion,  Mayer  wanted  to  take  care  of  his  stars. 
MGM  films  were  always  the  glossiest,  with  the  biggest  budgets, 
best  technicians  and  glamour  so  thick  you  could  spread  it  on  a 
plate.  The  bigger  stars  were  well  paid  (Clark  Gable  got  a  re- 
ported three  hundred  and  fifty-seven  thousand  dollars  in  1941), 
and  the  studio  tried  its  hardest  to  live  up  to  Mayer's  dictum: 
"Make  it  good.  .  .  .  Make  it  big.  .  .  .  Give  it  class." 

MGM  succeeded  often  enough  to  make  it  the  most  famous — 
and  most  successful,  in  terms  of  both  profits  and  Oscars — studio 
in  Hollywood.  In  1939,  it  had  released  my  great  favorite  Gone 
With  the  Wind,  and  in  this  my  first  year  on  the  lot  it  would  turn 
out  fifty-two  films,  potboilers  like  the  Dr.  Kildare,  Tarzan,  and 
Andy  Hardy  series  along  with  the  usual  component  of  class  acts 
like  Spencer  Tracy's  Dr.  Jekyll  and  Mr.  Hyde.  If  I  was  going  to 
be  anywhere  in  Hollywood,  this  sure  seemed  like  the  place  to  be. 

What  I  didn't,  couldn't  know  at  the  time  was  that  I  was  walk- 
ing onto  the  MGM  lot  at  the  beginning  of  the  end.  Though  she 
was  at  the  height  of  her  career,  Garbo  never  made  another  film 
for  MGM  or  anyone  else  after  1941's  Two-Faced  Woman.  World 



War  II,  which  we  were  to  enter  just  a  few  months  later  after  the 
Japanese  bombed  Pearl  Harbor,  was  crippling  the  industry's  Eu- 
ropean markets.  And  something  as  funny-sounding  as  the  con- 
sent decree  was  in  the  process  of  splitting  MGM  off  from  the 
hugely  profitable  Loews  theater  chain.  I  may  have  been  taking 
my  first  nervous  steps  in  Hollywood,  but  the  studio  system  was 
about  to  totter  onto  its  last  legs. 

While  I  didn't  know  any  of  that,  I  did  know  that  I  wasn't 
making  the  kind  of  money  Clark  Gable  was,  or  even  the  hundred 
and  twelve  thousand  that  Deanna  Durbin,  just  about  my  age, 
was  pulling  in.  I  got  fifty  dollars  a  week,  and,  courtesy  of  a  little 
firecracker  embedded  in  my  contract,  the  studio  had  the  right  to 
impose  an  annual  twelve-week  layoff  period  during  which  my 
pay  dropped  to  thirty-five  dollars. 

Clearly,  on  money  like  that  Bappie  and  I  were  not  long  for  the 
Plaza.  The  desk  clerk  there  helped  us  find  an  apartment  on 
nearby  Wilcox  Avenue:  one  room  with  a  pull-down  bed,  a  two- 
ring  cooker,  and  a  microscopic  bathroom.  Nothing  classy,  but  we 
could  afford  it,  especially  after  Bappie  used  an  introduction  from 
her  New  York  boss  to  get  a  job  at  I.  Magnin. 

That  same  clerk  worked  out  my  bus  route  to  the  studio.  Let 
me  tell  you,  honey,  you  want  to  be  a  film  star,  youVe  got  to  be 
an  early  riser.  I  was  stepping  out  into  the  cold  dawn  of  Holly- 
wood at  five  A.M.  I  walked  to  the  bus  terminal  about  three  blocks 
away  and  took  the  first  bus  out  of  there  to  Wilshire  Boulevard.  A 
second  bus  took  me  close  to  Culver  City  and  a  third  one  dropped 
me  off  in  front  of  the  studio. 

The  nice  men  on  the  gate,  who  had  obviously  seen  a  thousand 
white-faced  kids  go  through  in  their  time,  told  me  the  way  to 
makeup.  That  was  my  first  destination.  I  held  a  piece  of  paper 
giving  me  my  orders — the  call  sheet — which  informed  me  that  I 
had  to  report  to  a  stage  where  I'd  be  an  extra  dancing  in  a  ball- 
room scene.  It  sounded  very  pleasant.  But  first  the  makeup  de- 
partment. I  was  terrified. 

As  soon  as  I  walked  in  through  the  white  coats  and  the  bustle 
and  announced  shyly,  "I'm  Avah  Gardnuh.  I  was  told  to  come 
here,"  I  realized  that  my  statement  did  not  electrify  anybody.  No- 
body had  ever  heard  of  Avah  Gardnuh.  Nobody  cared  if  they 
ever  saw  Avah  Gardnuh  again.  Oh,  they  were  busy  all  right,  but 
eventually  Jack  Dawn,  who  was  head  of  makeup,  was  told  of  my 



arrival,  and  he  came  out  to  see  why  I  was  lost.  He  was  very 
brusque.  "You  are  in  the  wrong  department.  You  should  be 
down  in  the  extras'  makeup  department."  His  tone  indicated  that 
the  extras'  makeup  department  was  a  sort  of  leper  colony  re- 
served for  juveniles  like  me. 

Confused,  I  held  out  my  piece  of  paper  and  said  plaintively, 
"But  they  told  me  to  come  herel" 

"Wrong  place,"  insisted  Jack.  "Extras'  makeup."  Of  course, 
hindsight  would  later  tell  me  that  I  should  have  told  them  I  was 
under  contract,  that  magic  little  word  that  makes  all  the  dif- 
ference between  officer  class  and  the  lesser  ranks. 

I  think  Jack  Dawn  decided  to  be  nice,  for  he  pulled  out  a  piece 
of  paper  and  went  on,  "Now  here's  a  list  of  the  makeup  you'll 
need  down  there"  making  it  sound  like  the  last  circle  of  Hell. 
And,  as  my  eyes  popped  out,  he  went  on:  "Pancake  makeup." 
What  the  hell  was  that?  "Mascara."  I'd  never  heard  of  it;  it 
sounded  like  a  disease.  "False  eyelashes."  I  needed  artificial  eye- 
lashes like  I  needed  another  head.  Plus  a  lot  of  other  things.  I 
stood  looking  down  at  the  list  thinking,  "How  am  I  going  to 
afford  this  on  thirty-five  bucks  a  week,  plus  fares,  plus  rent,  plus 
food  .  .  ." 

I  went  to  the  drugstore  and  used  up  all  my  money,  except  for 
the  three  bus  fares  home.  Bappie  looked  at  my  purchases  very 
suspiciously  and  made  rude  noises.  Especially  about  the  pancake 
makeup.  She  was  right.  In  those  days  it  was  terrible  stuff,  a 
bright-yellowy-colored  cream.  You  dabbed  it  on  with  a  sponge. 
When  you  smiled  everything  cracked.  Even  Garbo  would've 
looked  like  Mrs.  Frankenstein. 

As  a  matter  of  fact  I  didn't  use  any  of  it.  Somewhere  in 
makeup  they  finally  got  the  message  that  this  kid  was  a  contract 
player,  not  an  extra.  The  cosmetics  were  on  the  house,  paid  for 
by  Louis  B.  Mayer.  And  the  next  time  I  went  in  I  was  passed  to 
Charlie  Schamm,  who  was  a  sweetheart  and  did  my  makeup  for 
years  afterward.  Only  once  did  I  have  to  put  my  small  North 
Carolina  foot  down.  Over  the  eyebrows.  They  wanted  to  pluck 
every  one  out!  I  said  a  loud  "Nooo!"  I  would  have  added,  "If 
anyone  tries  it,  I'll  kick  his  teeth  in,"  but  I'd  already  made  my 

In  Hollywood  in  those  days  they  either  shaved  off  or  plucked 
out  the  eyebrows  and  replaced  them  with  a  thin  pencil  line.  Lana 



Turner,  poor  darling,  suffered  from  this  because  they  plucked  out 
her  eyebrows,  shaped  them,  and  waxed  them  until  all  she  could 
do  afterward  was  use  a  pencil. 

I  did  let  them  have  their  way  with  my  lips,  turning  them  into 
sort  of  a  huge  Joan  Crawford  scarlet  blur.  In  fact,  when  I  looked 
in  the  mirror  afterward  I  had  a  hard  time  knowing  if  it  was  me. 
But  that  was  Hollywood's  standard  starlet  treatment  in  those 
days:  orders  were  to  turn  out  a  series  of  look-alike  china  dolls, 
and  everybody  followed  orders. 

One  member  of  MGM's  staff  who  was  certainly  not  into  that 
assembly-line  routine  was  Sydney  Guilaroff.  He  was  a  master 
hairstylist,  but  my  first  meeting  with  him  was  awful  in  a  way  I 
don't  think  111  ever  forget. 

I  was  crouched  in  the  hairdressing  chair  in  Sydney's  salon, 
waiting  my  turn  for  his  attention  with  about  three  or  four  other 
girls.  We  were  only  too  happy  to  wait,  because  Sydney  was  an 
artist.  He  had  been  Joan  Crawford's  hairdresser,  Greta  Garbo's 
hairdresser,  God  knows  who  else's  hairdresser.  But  that  day  he 
was  creating  hairstyles  for  our  group  of  starlets.  All  of  us  were 
playing  walk-on  parts,  but  on  different  sets.  Some  needed  an  in- 
town  styling,  others  an  office  or  courjtry  look.  And  Sydney  could 
effortlessly  handle  them  all. 

What  he  couldn't  handle,  however,  was  the  sound  of  someone 
chewing  gum.  Now  you  have  to  understand  that  chewing  and 
cracking  gum  are  like  breathing  in  North  Carolina,  part  of  the 
normal  pattern  of  living.  I  was  chewing  away,  trying  to  keep 
calm,  when,  without  thinking,  I  cracked  my  gum. 

I  paused,  frozen,  but  it  was  too  late.  To  Sydney,  it  had  echoed 
as  loud  as  a  pistol  shot,  and  he  reacted  as  if  he'd  been  struck  in 
the  neck  by  a  pair  of  hot  curling  irons.  His  voice  was  loud,  cold, 
and  clear. 

"Who  is  the  girl  who  is  chewing  gum  in  here?  Take  it  out  of 
your  mouth  this  minute." 

Had  I  known  about  Sydney's  diabolical  hatred  of  chewing 
gum,  I  never  would  have  dared  chew  at  all.  But  now  it  was  too 
late.  I  did  the  only  thing  I  could:  I  swallowed  it,  cowering  even 
lower  in  rny  chair,  trying  to  cringe  so  far  down  that  nobody 
could  possibly  see  me.  My  face  could  have  been  bright  scarlet  for 
all  I  knew.  And  I  couldn't  say  a  word,  not  a  single  word. 

Sydney  stalked  around,  looking  for  his  victim.  All  the  girls 



looked  innocent.  I  looked  like  someone  on  the  way  to  Death 
Row.  He  paused  behind  my  chair.  Instinctively,  he  knew  he  was 
right.  But  he'd  made  his  point,  and  no  more  humiliation  was  nec- 
essary. He  did  my  hair  beautifully  and  gave  me  a  friendly  pat  on 
the  shoulder  as  I  left.  I'd  survived,  and  at  this  stage  of  my  career, 
if  you  can  call  it  that,  survival  was  the  best  I  could  hope  for  at  the 
end  of  every  day. 

Because  the  truth  was,  even  in  those  first  days  at  MGM,  even 
when  all  I  had  to  do  was  walk  on  the  set  and  hide  in  a  crowd  of 
extras,  I  was  terrified.  Then  I  discovered  that  on  every  set  there 
was  someone  called  the  prop  man.  And  the  prop  man  had  every- 
thing that  might  be  needed  in  a  film  scene,  and  I  mean 
everything.  Including  all  kinds  of  drinks:  coffee,  tea,  soda,  and 
the  real  thing.  All  I'd  have  to  do  was  sidle  up  and  raise  my  eye- 
brows, and  something  would  be  handed  to  me  in  a  paper  cup.  I 
never  knew  what  it  was,  and  I  didn't  care.  I  never  liked  the  taste 
of  any  booze,  and  I  didn't  start  drinking  seriously  until  I  was  in 
my  thirties.  All  I  knew  then  was  that  with  two  big  chugalugs 
inside  me,  I  could  calm  the  rising  panic. 

Once  I  got  used  to  things,  I  just  loved  working  with  the  extras, 
especially  the  dress  extras.  Oh,  boy,  they  were  quite  a  superior 
class  of  folks.  They  provided  their  own  evening  clothes,  which 
meant  tuxedos  or  white  tie  and  tails  for  the  men,  a  variety  of 
evening  gowns  for  the  ladies.  And  no  matter  how  old  or  crippled 
or  gray  they  got,  they  were  always  buoyed  up  by  enormous 
hopes.  One  of  these  days,  with  just  the  right  bit  of  luck,  being  in 
the  right  place  at  the  right  time,  the  right  word  from  the  right 
director,  they  would  emerge  like  Cinderella,  ready  for  stardom 
and  all  its  perks. 

My  ambitions  were  nowhere  near  as  high.  I  spent  an  awful  lot 
of  time  in  what  was  called  the  Picture  Gallery,  run  by  a  great 
portrait  artist,  Clarence  Bull,  and  his  team.  But  great  portraits 
weren't  what  they  had  in  mind  for  me.  My  specialty  was  what 
was  called  "leg  art,"  publicity  stills  of  the  cheesecake  variety  in- 
tended for  use  and  reuse  in  newspapers  and  magazines  around 
the  country.  It  was  not  my  favorite  activity. 

I  don't  know — I  don't  think  anyone  knows — how  many  hun- 
dreds of  those  shots  I  posed  for.  You  could  have  carpeted  Holly- 
wood Boulevard  from  curb  to  curb  with  my  pictures.  I  don't 
remember  how  many  swimsuits  I  wore  out,  without  getting  near 



the  water,  I  shot  enough  sultry  looks  around  the  gallery  to  melt 
the  North  Pole. 

Often  the  idea  was  to  get  pictures  to  match  holiday  seasons:  I 
was  always  a  smiling  Easter  bunny,  or  a  roguish  lady  Father 
Christmas  or  at  least  one  of  his  reindeer.  With  other  starlets,  I 
began  to  load  hay,  round  up  chickens.  "And  Ava!  You  mean  if 
we  got  a  cow  you  could  actually  milk  itl  Come  on.  I  don't  be- 
lieve it.  Ava,  I  bet  you  don't  know  one  end  from  the  other.  ..."  I 
think  some  of  those' guys  working  for  Clarence  Bull  thought  that 
milk  came  from  some  underground  spring  and  was  packed  into 
cartons  at  the  source. 

They  produced  a  cow.  Fortunately,  someone  knew  the  dif- 
ference between  a  cow  and  a  bull.  It  was  a  milking  cow  and  I 
milked  her.  MGM  was  overjoyed.  They'd  actually  got  a  starlet 
who  could  milk  a  cow.  Even  Mr.  L.  B.  Mayer  couldn't  do  that. 

I  especially  remember  a  record  heat  day  in  Los  Angeles  when 
somebody  said,  "Okay,  let's  get  somebody  who's  got  good  legs 
and  knockers  and  put  her  in  a  bathing  suit  on  top  of  this  enor- 
mous block  of  ice."  And  the  block  they  got  really  was  enormous; 
it  must  have  weighed  a  ton,  A  huge  crane  was  needed  to  get  it 
into  position  outside  the  Picture  Gallery.  And  who  was  chosen 
for  the  honor?  Ava  G.  I  wore  a  red  candy-striped  bathing  suit, 
and  they  heaved  me  up  to  the  top.  I  held  an  ice  cream  cone  and 
smiled  happily  as  they  turned  on  a  fan  so  my  hair  blew  in  the 
wind  as  my  bottom  froze.  It  made  all  the  newspapers.  No  one 
ever  called  it  an  intellectual  profession. 

There  were  also  lessons  in  voice  production,  in  elocution,  in 
drama.  One  thing  I  was  very  determined  about.  That  North  Car- 
olina accent  had  to  go.  Not  only  because  they  laughed  at  me — I 
was  sick  and  tired  of  being  teased  about  it,  it  made  me  shyer  than 
ever.  If  ever  I  was  going  to  speak  a  single  line  in  a  movie  (which  I 
doubted)  a  voice  from  the  Deep  South  was  not  going  to  help. 
Today,  you  can  talk  any  damn  way  you  like  in  pictures,  but  in 
those  days  it  was  very  important  to  speak  the  way  they  wanted. 

The  great  Lillian  Burns  was  the  MGM  drama  coach  in  those 
days.  In  principle,  she  was  responsible  for  everyone  and  every- 
thing, from  starlets  like  myself  to  Lana  Turner,  but  in  practice 
she  worked  with  you  only  when  you  had  a  specific  part  to  mas- 
ter. Since  I  wasn't  in  that  league  yet,  I  was  sent  to  Gertrude 
Vogeler,  the  vocal  coach,  a  woman  I  came  to  love  very  dearly. 



She  was  a  beautiful  old  lady,  very  old,  very  gray-haired,  very 
overweight,  with  a  million  cats — well,  it  seemed  like  a  million 
anyway — and  an  ancient  Chinese  cook  who  was  funnier  than 
anything  ever  seen  in  the  movies.  Lillian  Burns  had  this  fabulous 
office,  but  poor  Gertrude  was  way  off  in  the  back  of  the  lot.  She 
also  worked  out  of  her  own  house  on  Whittier  Drive,  a  sort  of 
cottage  where  she  adopted  everything  that  moved.  The  cat  union 
was  the  first  to  discover  this  and  move  right  in,  but  she  also 
adopted  us  kids — the  starlets.  A  lot  of  them  had  less  money  than 
I  did  and  a  lot  of  those  were  sending  what  they  had  home  to 
small  towns  in  places  like  Idaho,  Nebraska,  and  Louisiana.  Ger- 
trude would  take  in  some  of  these,  and  she'd  also  smuggle  in 
other  young  kids  who  were  trying  to  be  actors.  They'd  bed  down 
somewhere,  the  cook  would  feed  'em,  the  cats  would  sit  on  'em, 
and  Gertrude  would  teach  'em. 

Gertrude  had  a  hard  time  with  me,  but  she  was  so  loving  and 
skillful.  I  can  remember  her  sitting  opposite  me,  her  motherly 
bosom  going  up  and  down,  trying  to  get  my  voice  a  couple  of 
octaves  closer  to  my  navel  "Sit  on  it,  Ava!"  she'd  say.  "Sit  on  it, 
my  beauty!  Make  your  voice  come  up  from  down  there — down 
there.  That's  good,  that's  good." 

Gertrude  had  the  most  beautiful  voice  herself.  And  she  was  not 
just  a  voice  coach,  she  was  an  institution.  She'd  give  you  a  page 
of  dialogue  to  work  on,  and  if  she  hadn't  enough  time,  you'd  go 
back  to  the  cottage,  and  by  God  you'd  find  you  were  into  yoga 
exercises  and  breathing  and  all  kinds  of  stuff.  You  were  not  going 
to  breathe  just  from  the  throat,  you  were  going  to  speak  from 
down  there — down  there.  Every  time  I  went  back  to  Los  Angeles 
for  years  after  that — as  I'm  sure  so  many  other  of  her  pupils 
did — I  went  back  to  kiss  her  on  the  cheek  and  say  thank  you. 

One  thing  I  wasn't  thankful  for,  then  or  ever,  was  the  god- 
damn MGM  contract  I  had  to  sign.  I  had  to  accept  any  and  all 
roles  assigned  to  me.  I  had  to  make  personal  appearances  for 
publicity  purposes,  or  for  any  other  reason  they  could  think  up, 
anywhere  they  chose.  Travel  anywhere  MGM  felt  like  sending 
me.  But  I  could  not  ever  leave  Los  Angeles,  even  when  I  was  on 
vacation,  without  their  permission. 

And  the  standard  morals  clause.  That  was  worth  a  few  laughs. 
I  solemnly  agreed  to  conduct  myself  "with  due  regard  to  public 
conventions  and  morals"  and  not  "do  or  commit  any  act  or  thing 



that  will  degrade  her  in  society,  or  bring  her  into  public  hatred, 
contempt,  scorn,  or  ridicule,  that  will  tend  to  shock,  insult,  or 
offend  the  community  or  ridicule  public  morals  or  decency,  or 
prejudice  the  producer  or  the  motion  picture  industry  in  gen- 
eral." My  God,  if  we  so  much  as  were  photographed  in  a  night- 
club with  a  cigarette,  the  studio  would  insist  that  it  be  airbrushed 

I  decided  from  the  very  first  that  the  contract  abused  my  sense 
of  personal  human  rights.  We  were  told  what  to  do,  when  to  do 
it  and  how,  and  we  were  paid  very  little.  I  used  to  joke  that  we 
were  the  only  kind  of  merchandise  allowed  to  leave  the  store  at 
night,  but  it  wasn't  a  very  funny  situation.  And  this  particular 
piece  of  merchandise  was  female,  Southern  female.  I  decided 
from  the  first  that  I  had  the  right  to  act  according  to  my  own 
principles.  And  if  mine  clashed  with  theirs,  and  they  didn't  like  it, 
that  was  not  going  to  be  my  problem. 



t  started  on  my  very  first  day  at  MGM. 
Milton  Weiss  was  taking  me  around  the  lot 
and  I  was  making  a  great  effort  to  keep  my 
mouth  from  dropping  open.  The  final  sound  stage  we  visited  was 
full  of  music,  noise,  and  bustle.  "Babes  on  Broadway/9  Weiss 
whispered  to  me.  "Mickey  Rooney  and  Judy  Garland!" 

I  was  trying  to  figure  out  an  appropriate  response  when  I  saw 
someone  detach  him  or  herself  from  a  crowd  and  walk  toward 
us.  Whatever  it  was,  it  looked  an  awful  lot  like  Carmen  Miranda, 
the  Brazilian  firecracker  who  always  seemed  to  be  living  through 
a  perpetual  fiesta.  It  wore  a  bolero  blouse,  a  long  and  colorful  slit 
skirt,  enormous  platform  shoes,  and  the  biggest  fruit-laden  hat 
Fd  ever  seen.  The  mouth  smeared  with  thick  scarlet  makeup 
opened  and  a  voice  said,  "Hello,  I'm  Mickey  Rooney." 

Thank  God  for  Milton  Weiss.  "This  is  Miss  Ava  Gardner,"  he 
said,  giving  me  a  minute  to  recover  from  the  shock. 

"Hello,"  I  said.  I  may  have  managed  a  smile.  What  the  film 
was  about  I  never  discovered,  but  everybody  in  America  knew 
Mickey  Rooney.  Only  two  years  older  than  me — and  consider- 
ably shorter — Mickey  was  the  most  popular  star  in  America, 
earning  five  thousand  dollars  a  week,  plus  bonuses.  Almost  liter- 
ally born  in  a  trunk  to  a  pair  of  vaudevillian  parents,  Joe  Yule,  Jr. 
first  toddled  onstage  at  age  fifteen  months,  made  his  film  debut  at 
six  (playing  a  midget!),  and  was  so  successful  making  some  fifty 
Mickey  McGuire  two-reel  comedies  that  he  changed  his  name  to 
his  character's. 



When  he  was  fourteen,  Mickey  changed  it  again,  this  time 
to  Rooney,  and  played  the  plum  role  of  Puck  in  a  glossy  Holly- 
wood version  of  A  Midsummer  Night's  Dream,  He  shared  a 
special  Oscar  with  Deanna  Durbin  in  1938  for  "bringing  to  the 
screen  the  spirit  and  personification  of  youth"  and  he'd  made 
a  whole  bunch  of  Andy  Hardy  movies,  playing  a  peppy  son 
always  in  need  of  advice  from  Lewis  Stone's  kindly  father. 
No  wonder  these  were  Louis  B.  Mayer's  favorite  films.  Mickey 
had  already  been  through  it  all,  and  I  hadn't  even  begun  my 

Not  that  that  bothered  Mickey.  When  Bappie  and  I  returned  to 
the  Plaza  Hotel  that  night,  the  phone  rang  and  a  voice  said, 
"Hello,  Miss  Gardner,  this  is  Mickey  Rooney.  What  about  dinner 

I  was  flustered  and  I  reacted  instinctively.  I  played  it  like  a  little 
lady,  a  little  Southern  lady. 

<Tm  busy,"  I  told  him.  Busy!  I  didn't  know  a  soul. 

I  soon  found  out  that  Mickey  Rooney  never  took  no  for  an 
answer.  Every  night  during  those  first  two  weeks  in  Hollywood 
the  telephone  rang  and  it  was  Mickey  Rooney,  Sometimes  Bappie 
would  answer  and  cheerfully  make  the  excuse  that  I  was  out,  or 
I  was  tired  and  had  gone  to  bed  e$rly;  sometimes  I  had  to  do 
it  myself.  At  eighteen,  you  obey  the  S.L.G,  the  Southern  lady 
conventions,  and  you  don't  go  out  at  the  drop  of  a  hat  when  a 
gentleman  invites  you  to  dinner.  A  Southef n  lady  has  to  be 
courted,  and  a  gentleman  has  to  be  gallant,  chivalrous,  and  pa- 
tient. After  all,  I  hadn't  read  and  reread  Gone  With  the  Wind  for 

Bappie,  however,  thought  I  should  give  him  a  chance,  that  he 
wasn't  going  to  keep  calling  me  fprever.  But  he  did  go  on  call- 
ing—forever! At  least  it  felt  like  forever  to  me*  One  evening, 
when  Pd  used  up  my  last  excuse,  I  said  in  .exasperation,  "Now 
listen,  Mickey,  I've  got  my  sister  Bappie  here,  I  just  can't  leave 
her  here  by  herself."  Not  missing  a  beat,  Mickey  made  one  of  the 
greatest  sacrifices  known  to  man  and  said,  "Well,  let's  take  her 
out,  too." 

We  went  to  Chasen's,  one  of  Hollywood's  landmark  restau- 
rants. Full  of  the  people  who  made  Hollywood  spectacular,  and 
they  all  welcomed  Mickey  as  if  he  owned  the  place.  Taking  me  by 
the  hand,  he  towed  me  around  from  table  to  table,  cracking  gags 



and  introducing  me.  It  was  so  swift  and  spontaneous  I  didn't 
even  have  time  to  feel  nervous.  I  had  to  say  one  thing  for  him:  he 
sure  had  energy. 

After  that,  Mickey  and  I  started  going  out  on  a  regular  basis. 
At  first  Mickey's  shortness  kind  of  stunned  me,  but  he  was 
charming,  romantic,  and  great  fun,  and  I  began  to  miss  him  when 
he  wasn't  around.  I  was  reared  in  a  Southern  tempo,  and  Mickey 
had  so  much  speed  it  was  dazzling.  His  kind  of  courtship  was  as 
foreign  to  me  as  the  caviar  we  had  at  Romanoff's  or  the  zombies 
we  downed  at  Don  the  Beachcomber's. 

And  like  those  zombies,  Mickey  had  a  powerful  effect.  He  was 
the  original  laugh-a-minute  boy,  and  even  the  second  or  third 
time  around  his  stories,  jokes,  and  gags  were  funny.  There  wasn't 
a  minute  when  he  wasn't  onstage.  He  loved  an  audience,  and  I 
tried  to  be  as  good  a  one  as  I  knew  how.  Occasionally,  a  voice 
would  sound  in  my  brain  warning  that  maybe  life  with  Mickey 
would  be  like  life  on  a  sound  stage.  But  whenever  the  warning 
sounded,  Mickey  drowned  it  out  with  a  new  joke. 

And  those  were  not  the  only  fears  I  had.  Mickey  was  so  dif- 
ferent from  me.  He  was  enthusiastic,  sure  of  himself,  and  good  at 
everything  he  tried,  from  acting  to  golf,  tennis,  and  swimming.  I 
may  have  been  close  to  my  nineteenth  birthday,  but  I  hadn't 
changed  all  that  much  from  that  tongue-tied  country  girl  out  on 
her  first  date  who  had  tried  to  fill  in  the  silences  by  reciting  the 
names  on  the  brightly  lit  signs  as  we  drove  by.  I  may  have  seemed 
like  a  cool  customer,  but  that  was  just  the  constant  fear  and 
shyness  I  tried  so  hard  to  conceal,  the  front  I  put  on  when  I  was 
terrified  of  things. 

I  loved  our  nights  out,  dancing  at  Giro's  or  the  Trocadero, 
eating  at  smart  restaurants,  and  all  the  new  acquaintances  I  made 
through  Mickey — people  like  Lana  Turner,  Judy  Garland,  Esther 
Williams,  Kathryn  Grayson,  Elizabeth  Taylor,  and  a  young 
English  actor,  Peter  Lawford,  who  remained  a  good  friend  for 

But  no  matter  how  much  fun  I  was  having,  I  was  not  going  to 
bed  with  any  man  until  I  was  married  to  him.  Sex  before  mar- 
riage was  definitely  out;  in  Mama's  terms,  even  a  couple  of  kisses 
before  marriage  were  a  kind  of  prostitution.  I  was  a  very  old- 
fashioned  girl,  as  Mickey  found  out  after  a  couple  of  wrestling 
sessions  in  the  back  of  his  car. 



One  night,  Mickey  said,  "Let's  get  married.  Now/'  Just  like 

Corny  as  it  sounds,  that  took  my  breath  away.  But  I  reacted, 
immediately  and  very  loudly:  "No!" 

"Why  not?" 

"Because  I'm  too  young  and  you're  too  young.  No." 

Mickey,  as  noted,  did  not  understand  the  meaning  of  the 
word.  He  thought  I  was  being  coy.  I  wasn't.  He  asked  me  every 
night.  Sometimes  several  times  a  night.  "Please  don't  start  that 
again,"  I'd  tell  him.  "You're  crazy.  I  don't  want  to  marry  anyone 
until  I'm  positive  it  will  work  out."  But  he  kept  persevering.  First 
he  won  over  Bappie,  who,  like  Mama,  was  always  on  the  man's 
side.  Finally,  I  said  yes  as  well,  with  one  proviso:  not  until  I'd 
passed  my  nineteenth  birthday. 

"Great!"  Mickey  said.  "We'll  throw  a  birthday  party  for  you 
at  Romanoff's  on  Christmas  Eve  and  we'll  announce  our  engage- 
ment there." 

Now  came  the  next  obstacle.  "Ava,  if  we're  going  to  get  mar- 
ried, you've  got  to  meet  Ma." 

Meet  my  future  mother-in-law?  I  had  never  even  considered 
that  a  mother-in-law  came  with  the  package,  and  the  idea  ter- 
rified me.  Mickey's  mother  was  divorced  from  Joe  Yule,  remar- 
ried, and  living  in  a  huge  house  in  the  San  Fernando  Valley. 
"We'll  just  drop  in  and  give  the  happy  news,"  Mickey  said,  bub- 
bling away. 

Bappie  took  me  down  to  I.  Magnin  and  we  bought  a  pretty 
black  dress  and  all  the  accessories.  I  sure  hope  we  got  a  dis- 

Mickey  picked  the  evening.  He  didn't  telephone  to  break  the 
ice,  or  forewarn  Ma.  We  just  arrived.  Me  quaking. 

We  breezed  into  the  house  and  Mickey  marched  me  through  to 
the  sitting  room.  There  was  Ma  sitting  cross-legged  on  this  enor- 
mous sofa.  At  that  time  a  famous  newspaper  comic  strip  was 
running  called  Maggie  and  Jiggs.  Either  Maggie  had  been  based 
on  Ma  or  the  other  way  round.  She  was  a  complete  look-alike. 
The  size,  the  glasses,  the  mop  of  frizzed  hair. 

Ma,  with  her  legs  tucked  up  under  her,  was  reading  the  Racing 
Form  with  fierce  intensity.  At  her  elbow  on  a  small  table  was  a 
tumbler  half  full  of  bourbon  and  a  bottle  behind  the  glass  as 



"Ma,"  said  Mickey  proudly,  "I  want  you  to  meet  Ava.  We're 
gonna  get  married." 

I  was  standing  there,  feeling  like  a  complete  dummy.  Ma 
stopped  reading  the  Racing  Form,  slightly  adjusted  her  glasses, 
and  stared  over  the  top  of  them.  She  took  a  few  seconds  to  reach 
her  verdict. 

"Well,"  she  said  slowly,  "I  guess  he  ain't  been  into  your  pants 

I  was  mortified.  The  big  occasion.  A  great  moment  in  a  girl's 
life.  How  could  she?  At  the  time  I  didn't  know  whether  to  laugh 
or  cry.  I  was  just  dumbfounded.  And  that  was  my  meeting  with 

Since  then  I've  laughed  about  that  night  hundreds  of  times. 
And  let  me  add  I  eventually  got  on  marvelously  with  Mickey's 
Ma,  who  knew  more  cuss  words  than  my  entire  childhood  gang 
put  together.  In  fact,  I  got  along  with  the  mothers  of  all  the  men  I 
married,  all  of  them  strong,  assertive  women.  If  only  I'd  gotten 
along  half  as  well  with  the  husbands,  I'd  still  be  married  to  as 
many  of  them  as  the  law  allows. 

The  next  hurdle  was  a  meeting  with  Louis  B.  Mayer.  We  had 
to  get  his  permission  to  get  married.  It  was  in  the  contract.  Metro 
owned  both  of  us,  and  did  not  look  kindly  on  any  change  in 
Andy  Hardy's  status.  We  arrived  at  Mr.  Mayer's  office  together, 
but  Mickey  went  in  alone.  He  was  weeping  because  he  wanted  to 
get  married,  and  Mr.  Mayer  was  weeping  because  he  didn't  want 
him  to.  Father  and  son  stuff,  just  like  in  the  movies.  It  must  have 
been  a  great  scene,  because  Mr.  Mayer  and  Mickey  were  rated 
the  best  criers  in  Hollywood. 

While  all  this  weeping  was  going  on,  I  waited  in  the  outer 
office  with  Mr.  Mayer's  elderly  and  very  disapproving  secretary. 
When  I'd  had  my  screen  test  I'd  been  asked,  "Which  would  be 
more  important  to  you — your  career  or  love?"  I  said,  "Oh,  mah 
cahreah,  of  cawse!"  And  then  the  first  thing  I'd  done  when  I'd 
gotten  the  damn  contract  was  to  marry  Mickey  Rooney.  No 
wonder  that  secretary  was  not  at  all  pleased.  She  told  me  icily 
that  it  was  not  possible  for  a  leopard  to  change  its  spots.  I  was 
quite  hurt  at  the  time,  knowing  it  was  a  nasty  statement  but  not 
being  sure  exactly  what  the  hell  it  meant.  I  found  out  soon 

Mr.  Mayer  gave  in;  Mickey,  as  you  may  remember,  was  a  very 



determined  young  man.  The  wedding  would  go  on,  but  Metro 
would  set  the  rules.  Les  Petersen,  Mickey's  personal  publicist  at 
the  studio,  was  put  in  charge  of  all  the  details,  and  he  sold 
Mickey  on  MGM's  plan  for  a  nice  quiet,  unpublicized  little  cere- 
mony. And,  as  a  dutiful  wife-to-be,  I  agreed  with  my  future 
husband,  even  though  it  ruined  my  dream  of  getting  married 
at  a  beautiful  ceremony  dressed  in  a  white  wedding  gown.  I 
didn't  mind  missing  out  on  the  big  wedding,  but  I  did  miss  the 

Mickey  and  I  were  married  on  January  10,  1942,  in  Ballard,  a 
town  near  Santa  Barbara  in  the  foothills  of  the  Santa  Ynez 
Mountains.  The  wedding  party  consisted  of  the  two  of  us  and 
five  guests:  Bappie,  Mickey's  father,  Ma  and  her  new  husband — 
and  Les  Petersen.  An  official  photographer  from  MGM  took  pic- 
tures. I  wore  a  simple  blue  suit  and  a  corsage  of  orchids,  Mickey 
a  dark  gray  suit,  a  polka-dot  tie,  and  a  white  carnation.  Pres- 
byterian minister  Reverend  Glenn  H.  Lutz  (who  later  moved  on 
to  bigger  audiences  in  Las  Vegas)  conducted  the  services  with  a 
beaming  smile,  and  Mrs.  Lutz  banged  out  the  wedding  march 
and  "I  Love  You  Truly."  Mickey  fumbled  with  the  wedding  ring, 
inscribed  "Love  Forever,"  which  was  probably  some  kind  of  por- 
tent, given  that  he  racked  up  eight  marriages  altogether  and  I 
managed  another  two.  No  one  shed  any  tears. 

The  wedding  over,  the  pictures  taken,  Mickey  and  I  got  into 
the  getaway  car  that  was  to  whisk  us  to  our  intimate  honeymoon 
retreat  near  Monterey — and  Les  Petersen  got  in  with  us.  What 
the  hell  Les  was  doing  with  us  only  L.  B,  Mayer  could  possibly 
know.  Actually,  I  know  exactly  what  he  was  doing  there.  He  was 
personally  responsible  to  Mr.  Mayer  for  keeping  the  name  of 
Andy  Hardy  pure  and  unsullied.  And  as  Mickey  loved  booze, 
betting,  and  girls,  not  necessarily  in  that  order,  that  was  quite  a 
job,  and  I  have  to  add  that  I  forgive  dear  Les  completely  for  what 
he  had  to  do. 

Our  little  place  by  the  sea  turned  out  to  be  the  enormous  Del 
Monte  Hotel  near  Carmel  on  the  Monterey  Peninsula.  It  is  also 
only  a  stone's  throw  from  one  of  the  most  famous  golf  courses  in 
the  world,  Pebble  Beach.  And  I  was  soon  to  find  out  that  by  some 
strange  coincidence  Mickey  had  a  completely  new  set  of  golf 
clubs,  his  wedding  gift  to  himself,  in  the  trunk. 

The  suite  in  the  hotel  was  great:  huge  fireplace,  a  lounge 



that  stretched  for  a  mile,  a  big  bedroom,  champagne  every- 
where. But  by  now  I  was  cooling  very  rapidly  about  this  honey- 
moon deal.  I  realized  that  it  was  a  bit  late  for  the  bride  to 
default,  but  I  wanted  to  keep  the  moment  of  truth  off  as  long  as 

Drinking  seemed  to  be  the  only  way  of  doing  that.  "Les, 
let's  have  another  glass  of  champagne.  Plenty  left.  Let's  have 
a  party."  Every  glass  delayed  procedures.  Invisible  masculine 
signals  were  now  beginning  to  vibrate  between  Mickey  and 
Les.  I  couldn't  care;  no  one  felt  less  inclined  to  honeymoon  ac- 
tivity that  night  than  I  did.  Nothing  to  do  with  Mickey.  I  loved 
him,  but  I  needed  time  to  think  this  thing  through.  I  had  been 
brought  up  by  Mama,  after  all,  and  I  had  not  been  briefed  about 
this  next  bit.  This  business  of  sex  was  going  to  ruin  the  entire 

I  clung  to  Les  Petersen's  arm  as  if  he  were  the  Rock  of 
Gibraltar  and  I  was  in  danger  of  being  swept  away  by  a  raging 
sea.  "My  glass  needs  a  refill,  Les.  We've  got  all  night,  haven't  we? 
What's  the  champagne  there  for,  anyway?  Bridal  celebration!" 
Les  was  shocked.  Brides  did  not  behave  like  this.  Especially  when 
they  had  publicity  men  with  them. 

The  male  signals  were  now  audible. 

"Well,  see  ya,  Les." 

"Oh,  sure,  Mick,  see  ya,  Mick." 

"There's  a  lot  of  champagne  left,"  I  wailed,  but  I  knew  that 
sooner  or  later  Les  was  going  to  unhook  my  arm  and  abandon 
me.  Why  wasn't  it  like  the  movies  ...  the  embrace  and  kiss,  the 
slow  fade,  the  dim  lights,  the  soft  music? 

Let  me  say  at  this  point  that  I  approve  highly  of  the  physical 
side  of  relationships  between  male  and  female.  Not  only  does  it 
make  the  world  go  round,  it's  marvelous.  In  that  respect  all  my 
three  marriages  were  perfect;  I  loved  each  one  of  my  husbands 
just  as  much  when  I  left  them  as  I  did  when  I  married  them  .  .  . 
but  that  honeymoon  night  in  the  Del  Monte  Hotel  I  just  wasn't 

Oh,  it  worked  all  right,  and  I  was  agreeably  surprised.  Even 
when  next  morning,  damn  near  as  soon  as  the  sun  came  up, 
Mickey  was  out  of  bed  and  heading  for  the  golf  course.  He'd 
got  a  game  fixed  up  with  three  of  his  buddies.  That  was 
Mickey.  He  spent  most  of  our  honeymoon  on  the  golf  course, 



leaving  you  know  who  to  hold  the  bag.  When  you  came  down 
to  breakfast,  he  was  there.  When  you  had  your  dinner,  he  was 
there.  When  you  went  to  bed,  he  was  damn  near  there  as  well. 
Poor  Les. 

By  this  time,  World  War  II  was  on  in  earnest  and  after  only 
a  week  of  golf  widowhood  Mickey  and  I  were  put  on  a  war 
bond  tour.  We  were  to  drive  north  to  San  Francisco,  take  a  cross- 
country train  to  appearances  in  Boston  and  New  York,  then  go 
down  to  Fort  Bragg  and  finish  up  with  a  big  show  with  a  lot  of 
other  stars  for  the  President  at  the  White  House.  And  since 
Mickey  had  just  finished  Life  Begins  for  Andy  Hardy,  publicity 
for  that  picture  could  be  included  in  the  tour.  MGM  never 
missed  a  trick. 

On  the  way  to  San  Francisco  we  heard  the  tragic  news  about 
Carole  Lombard,  Clark  Gable's  wife.  Flying  back  to  Los  Angeles 
after  a  war  bond  appearance  in  Fort  Wayne,  Indiana,  her  plane 
had  crashed  near  Las  Vegas.  There  were  no  survivors.  It  horrified 
us  all.  Poor  Clark,  I  thought.  Oh,  God,  poor  Clark.  And  it  drove 
home  the  point:  there  was  a  war  going  on. 

No  one  took  much  notice  of  me  in  San  Francisco.  We  checked 
into  the  Palace  Hotel — and  got  the  presidential  suite.  I  don't 
think  anyone  revealed  until  later  that  it  was  the  suite  that  Presi- 
dent Harding  died  in.  Mickey  was  interviewed,  and  I  was  in- 
cluded in  some  of  the  photographs.  Me  sitting  in  an  armchair, 
and  Mickey  smiling  on  the  arm  because  of  the  height  difference. 
But  Mickey  was  the  lion.  Who'd  ever  heard  of  me?  I  was  just 
another  pretty  girl. 

Next  morning  we  were  off  on  the  Union  Pacific  heading  for 
Chicago,  an  overnight  stay  at  the  Ambassador  East,  and  Mickey 
giving  more  interviews  to  promote  his  new  picture.  On  again 
then  by  Twentieth  Century  Limited  to  New  York.  This  time  we 
stayed  at  the  New  Yorker,  and  Bappie  came  in  from  Los  Angeles 
to  stay  with  me.  It  had  been  plain  to  Bappie,  if  not  to  me,  that 
her  marriage  to  Larry  Tarr  had  been  rocky  and  on  the  point  of 
shipwreck  for  some  time  now.  As  I've  said,  Larry  was  lovable  but 

Boston,  where  the  mayor  had  laid  on  a  luncheon  in  our  honor, 
was  nerve-racking.  It  was  a  terribly  elegant  meal,  in  a  terribly 
elegant  and  beautiful  old  house,  with  a  terribly  elegant  guest  list. 
Oh  baby,  this  was  the  first  time  in  my  life  I'd  ever  been  to  a  real 



banquet — even  seen  a  table  laid  out  for  a  banquet — and  my 
knees  shook  under  the  tablecloth.  It  was  nothing  like  Mama's 
boardinghouse.  I  can't  tell  you  the  size  of  the  plates,  and  the  sil- 
ver lined  up  in  rows  on  either  side,  and  the  crystal — all  those 
glasses — oh  God5  which  one  did  you  use  first?  I  really  suffered 
through  that  meal,  and  as  a  kid,  I  was  not  drinking.  (We  won't 
go  into  the  bridal  night  champagne;  that  was  pure  self-defense.) 
If  only  Pd  been  older  and  more  experienced  and  managed  a  cou- 
ple of  quick  drinks  I  might  have  enjoyed  it. 

Next  stop  Fort  Bragg,  the  huge  North  Carolina  military  estab- 
lishment, where  Mickey  was  again  given  the  royal  treatment. 
And  now,  en  route  to  Washington,  we  had  a  chance  to  take  a 
side  trip  to  Raleigh,  where  Mama  was  being  cared  for  by  iny 
sister  Inez.  There  was  a  pleasant  sun  room  where  every  afternoon 
Mama  rested  on  a  little  sofa.  And  Mama  had  made  herself  pretty. 
She'd  got  herself  dressed  to  the  nines  to  meet  her  famous  son-in- 
law.  We  had  all  the  aunts  and  uncles  and  cousins  and  kids,  and 
fried  chicken,  a  real  Southern  feast.  And  the  house  was  filled, 
which  couldn't  have  made  Mama  happier  because  she  loved  peo- 
ple around  her.  And  Mickey  liked  that  sort  of  situation,  too,  and 
in  my  terms  gave  the  greatest  and  most  heartwarming  perfor- 
mance of  his  life.  He  entertained  Mama,  he  hugged  her,  he  made 
her  laugh,  he  brought  tears  to  her  eyes.  He  did  his  impersona- 
tions, he  did  his  songs  and  dances — it  was  a  wonderful,  wonder- 
ful occasion  for  Mama,  who  we  all  knew  was  slowly  dying. 
Although  I  had  loved  Mickey  from  the  start,  that  show  he  put  on 
moved  me  beyond  words. 

So  on  again  to  Washington  for  a  very  special  occasion.  To  ob- 
serve the  President's  birthday  he  and  Mrs.  Roosevelt  were  meet- 
ing a  group  of  Hollywood  stars  and  entertaining  them  at  the 
White  House.  And  Mickey  and  I  were  to  be  part  of  the  group. 
I've  still  got  the  newspaper  clipping  and  the  picture  of  all  the 
stars:  John  Payne,  Gene  Raymond,  Pat  O'Brien,  Jimmy  Stewart, 
Rosalind  Russell,  Edward  Arnold,  Gene  Autry,  Jackie  Cooper, 
Betty  Grable,  Douglas  Fairbanks,  Dorothy  Lamour,  William 
Holden,  and  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Mickey  Rooney  joining  that  world- 
famous  contingent.  And  I  think  because  we  were  so  young — and 
I  was  certainly  so  shy  it  hurt — the  President  and  Mrs.  Roosevelt 
singled  us  out  for  a  little  special  attention.  My  thought  was:  six 
months  ago  I  was  in  Wilson,  North  Carolina,  worrying  about 



what  sort  of  secretarial  job  I  might  get,  and  here  I  am  in  the 
White  House  being  introduced  to  the  President  of  the  United 
States  and  the  First  Lady.  It  was  unbelievable — absolutely  unbe- 

When  we  returned  to  L.A.  we  moved  into  an  apartment  good 
old  Les  Petersen  had  found  for  us  in  the  Wilshire  Palms  near 
Westwood.  With  two  bedrooms,  a  living  room,  kitchen,  and 
bath,  it  was  a  great  improvement  over  the  room  Bappie  and  I  had 
been  sharing,  though  I  can't  say  I  was  crazy  about  the  way  it  was 
decorated.  White  walls,  white  carpets,  pieces  of  fake  leather  fur- 
niture scattered  around  at  random  made  it  almost  as  inspiring  as 
the  average  hotel  suite.  Not  that  we  were  there  that  much:  I  don't 
think  Mickey  and  I  had  more  than  a  dozen  dinners  at  home  dur- 
ing our  entire  marriage. 

Marriage.  I'd  wanted  to  get  married,  all  right.  I  loved  the  idea 
of  being  married.  But,  really,  neither  Mickey  or  I  had  so  much  as 
a  clue  as  to  what  that  word  really  meant.  We  had  no  idea  that 
marriage  involved  a  meeting  of  the  minds.  That  it  involved  shar- 
ing of  problems,  planning  together,  making  a  life  together.  Al- 
though Mickey  had  been  brought  up  in  show  business  and  was 
very  sophisticated  in  a  way,  he  wasn't  ready  for  it.  He'd  be  the 
first  to  admit  that  he  looked  on  marriage  as  a  small  dictatorship, 
with  you  know  who  as  the  one  in  charge. 

But  I  really  can't  say  our  breaking  up  was  Mickey's  fault.  He 
was  just  made  the  way  he  was  and  I  didn't  find  out  until  it  was 
too  late  that  I  wasn't  the  right  girl  for  him.  We  weren't  compati- 
ble. For  one  thing,  with  my  parents  as  an  example,  I'd  been 
brought  up  believing  that  marriage  was  a  very  sacred  and  final 
thing.  I  like  domesticity,  and  though  it's  out  of  fashion  to  say  so, 
I  liked  the  idea  of  cooking  for  a  husband  who  came  home  every 

Well,  forget  that  to  start  with.  Mickey  wanted  to  be  on  the  go 
every  minute  of  the  day,  with  parties,  clubs,  and  nightly  dinners 
out.  I  didn't  mind  going  out — I  loved  it — but  even  for  me  there 
were  limits,  like  always  having  a  bunch  of  Mickey's  friends  along 
with  us.  And  when  we'd  wake  up  in  the  morning,  if  Mickey 
didn't  have  to  be  on  the  set  at  Metro  at  dawn,  two  or  three  guys 
would  arrive  and  off  they'd  go  to  the  golf  course.  Mickey's  role 
in  life  was  to  amuse  the  world,  and  he  tore  himself  apart  doing  it. 

Mickey  clearly  thought,  if  he  thought  about  it  at  all,  that  a 



marriage  could  run  concurrent  with  his  normal  lifestyle:  boozing, 
broads,  bookmakers,  golfing,  and  hangers-on,  not  to  mention  the 
heavy  involvement  of  studio  work  and  publicity.  Honey,  let's 
take  bookmakers  for  a  Start.  Mickey  was  the  guy  they'd  put  a 
telephone  under  ;the  stage  for  so  he  could  be  in  hourly  contact 
with  his  bookies,  t&felly  he  lost  far  more  than  he'd  won;  that's 
how  bookies  manage  to  spend  winters  in  the  Caribbean.  Occa- 
sionally he  won  a  big  lump  of  money  from  the  track,  and  I'd  get 
a  lovely  present,  usually  jewelry.  I  especially  remember  a  beau- 
tiful ring,  but,  by  God,  Mickey  wanted  it  back  the  next  week  to 
pay  off  his  gambling  debts. 

For  a  while  I  felt,  if  you  can't  beat  'em,  join  'em.  If  Mickey  was 
going  to  involve  himself  in  a  thousand  activities,  so  would  I.  I 
took  golf  lessons,  I  took  tennis  lessons,  I  took  swimming  lessons 
from  Esther  Williams,  a  sweet  girl  in  my  starlet  group  and  an 
Olympic  champion.  What  I  finally  couldn't  take,  though,  was 
Mickey's  other  girls.  Talk  about  playing  the  field.  Jesus  Christ, 
Mickey  played  all  the  fields  known  to  man. 

We'd  been  married  about  two  months  when  I  woke  up  in  the 
middle  of  the  night  with  these  awful  pains  in  the  stomach.  They 
were  so  excruciating  that  I  was  rushed  to  Hollywood  Hospital, 
where  they  found  I  had  an  inflamed  appendix  and  operated  at 
once.  Convalescing,  I  sat  up  in  bed,  looking  pretty  and  receiving 
guests.  Mickey  rushed  in  and  out  bearing  gifts  and  books  and 
spraying  kisses.  Theft  1  came  home,  happy  and  contented  and, 
God  almighty,  it  was  clear  to  me  he'd  been  entertaining  girls  in 
my  bathroom  and  bed.  My  bathroom!  My  bed! 

I  screamed  to  Bappie  for  help  and  she  tried  to  console  me.  I 
screamed  at  Mickey  and  he  lied  as  only  Mickey  can.  No,  that's 
not  true.  Two  of  my  husbands  were  the  best  liars  in  the  world. 
They  lied  with  a  smile  on  their  lips  and  a  shine  in  their  eyes. 

I  know  that  frien  who've  been  married  for  five,  ten,  fifteen 
years  make  the  occasional  slip — I  suppose  some  of  them  make  it 
every  five  minutes.  But  when  you're  just  married,  and  your  wife 
is  young  and  beautiful,  and  she's  been  away  in  the  hospital,  to 
behave  that  way  in  your  own  home  and  your  own  bed,  that's 
inexcusable.  I  did  not  believe  in  cheating.  I  don't  cheat  and  I 
don't  want  aiiybqdy  dheating  on  me.  Maybe  I'm  stupid  because 
I  know  every  man  in  the  world  is  going  to  do  it.  But  in  those  days 
I  was  more  trusting. 



There  was  no  competition  between  Mickey  and  me  about  our 
careers.  Mickey  was  at  the  top  of  his  profession  and  I  was  doing 
publicity  photos  for  Metro  and  small  walk-on  parts  in  forgettable 
films.  I  came  home  and  cooked  and  cleaned  and  decorated  the 
house,  and  waited  for  Mickey.  Besides  golf  he  usually  had  "a 
coupla  things  to  do"  and  would  be  "a  bit  late"  or  "work  out  a 
few  things  with  the  director"  or  "slip  out  to  the  track  to  back  a 
certain  winner." 

MGM  decided  that  with  the  wedding  an  established  fact,  they 
might  as  well  cash  in  on  reality,  and  made  The  Courtship  of 
Andy  Hardy.  But  film  romance  with  Andy  Hardy  and  real  ro- 
mance with  Mickey  Rooney  were  miles  apart.  We  had  constant 
rows  and  reconciliations.  We  moved  to  a  larger  house  on  Stone 
Canyon  Drive  in  Bel  Air.  And  I  suppose  my  spirit  of  indepen- 
dence and  confidence  was  increasing.  The  quarrels  continued. 
Eight  months  after  we  married  and  after  a  noisier  row  than  most, 
Mickey  went  home  to  Mom  and  I  returned  to  the  Westwood 
apartment.  Mickey  was  working  on  his  new  film,  A  Yank  at 
Eton,  on  location  in  faraway  Connecticut.  He  called  a  lot  of 
times,  and  I  decided  we  should  try  again. 

It  didn't  work,  and  the  main  reason  was  Mickey's  inevitable 
philandering.  Mr.  Mayer's  secretary  was  right  after  all — this 
leopard  couldn't  change  his  spots.  Finally,  it  was  Peter  Lawford 
who  revealed  that  Mickey  in  his  golf  cart,  and  some  little  babe  in 
hers,  were  having  a  series  of  secret  rendezvous,  which  were  not 
secret  at  all  but  fairly  common  knowledge.  Peter  and  I  dated  a 
lot,  and  danced  a  lot,  but  we  never  had  any  sort  of  affair.  A  kiss 
on  the  cheek,  a  hug,  and  lovely  friends,  that's  all  we  ever  were. 
As  I  say,  I  never  cheated  on  a  marriage. 

I  remember  that  final  night  when  it  became  clear  that  life  with 
Mickey  would  always  be  impossible.  We  were  at  the  Ambassador 
with  a  party  of  Mickey's  cronies.  The  drinking  got  heavy,  Mickey 
got  drunker,  and  the  cronies  began  egging  him  into  doing  silly 
things.  "Come  on,  Mickey,  where's  your  little  book,  with  all  the 
babes'  telephone  numbers?  Share  it  with  your  friends." 

And  Mickey,  too  drank  to  care,  pulled  out  the  little  notebook 
with  his  list  of  conquests  and  began  to  recite  them  right  in  front 
of  me. 

I  left.  One  year  and  five  days  after  the  ring  marked  "Love  For- 
ever" was  slipped  on  my  finger,  the  marriage  was  finished  and 



the  lawyers  took  over.  They  came  up  with  the  usual  grounds, 
"grievous  mental  suffering"  and  "extreme  mental  cruelty,"  and  I 
had  to  testify  in  court  that  Mickey  did  not  want  a  home  life  with 
me  and  remained  away  for  long  periods  of  time.  I  paid  my  own 
legal  fees  and  waived  the  claim  I  had  on  half  of  Mickey's  prop- 
erty, settling  for  twenty-five  thousand  dollars.  I  didn't  want  his 
money.  We  were  babies,  just  children,  and  our  lives  were  run  by  a 
lot  of  other  people.  We  hadn't  had  a  chance. 

The  divorce  decree  was  granted  on  May  21,  1943.  A  very  sad 
occasion  made  even  sadder  because  Mama  died  on  the  same  day. 
We'd  expected  it,  known  it  was  going  to  happen,  but  that  didn't 
make  it  any  easier.  You  can  get  over  pain,  loneliness,  disappoint- 
ment, and  love,  but  you  never  get  over  grief.  That  lasts  forever. 



n  the  period  between  1941,  when  I  first  ar- 
rived in  Hollywood,  and  1946,  when  I  did 
Whistle  Stop  and  The  Killers,  I  appeared  in 
seventeen  films.  No  one  noticed.  The  films  were  barely  memora- 
ble and  you'd  need  a  magnifying  glass  to  pick  me  out  of  them.  I 
was  there  all  right,  married  to  Mickey,  arriving  at  the  studio 
every  morning  right  on  time,  a  face  or  figure  in  the  crowd.  I 
might  be  swirling  on  a  dance  floor,  joining  a  gang  of  kids  outside 
the  drugstore,  or  splashing  in  the  water  on  a  crowded  beach.  In- 
visible, but  there. 

While  people  have  speculated  that  being  married  to  Mickey 
may  have  helped  me  get  my  first  sequence  of  walk-on  parts,  the 
plain  facts  are  that  being  Mrs.  Rooney  never  gave  me  a  single 
boost  in  the  direction  of  stardom.  Mickey  never  tried  to  make  me 
an  actress,  never  taught  me  anything,  and  never  got  me  an  acting 

Not  that  I  couldn't  have  used  some  help.  I  was  greener  than 
grass  about  everything.  I'd  never  acted  or  been  photographed;  I 
was  awkward  and  scared  stupid.  Half  my  time  on  the  set  I  was 
trying  not  to  bawl  because  I  didn't  know  how  to  do  what  they 

My  very  first  feature  came  in  1942.  We  Were  Dancing  wasn't 
memorable  because  of  anything  I  did  but  because  it  was  one  of 
the  last  films  Norma  Shearer  appeared  in  at  MGM.  Once  billed 
as  The  First  Lady  of  the  Screen,  she  was  a  five-time  Oscar-nomi- 
nated actress  who'd  been  married  to  Irving  Thalberg,  the  studio's 



boy  genius.  But  after  Thalberg  died  in  1936,  Shearer's  star 
waned,  as  did  her  judgment — she  turned  down  both  Gone  With 
the  Wind  and  Mrs.  Miniver — and  she  ended  up  finishing  her  ca- 
reer in  my  forgettable  debut.  You  had  to  be  pretty  sharp-eyed  to 
spot  my  few  seconds  walking  across  a  hotel  lobby.  Not  sur- 
prisingly, my  name  was  not  included  in  the  credits.  In  fact,  I 
barely  remember  being  in  the  damn  thing  at  all. 

That  same  year  I  appeared  in  a  picture  I  won't  ever  forget. 
It  was  Calling  Dr.  Gillespie,  the  umpteenth  of  a  series  starring 
Lionel  Barrymore  as  that  lovable  fussbudget  of  a  doctor  who 
so  captivated  audiences  that  people  actually  wrote  him  letters 
about  their  medical  problems.  The  film  was  directed  by  Harold 
Bucquet,  but  I  think  it  was  an  assistant  director  who  picked 
me  out  of  my  usual  crowd  late  one  afternoon  and  said  with 
a  grin,  "Ava,  this  is  your  big  chance.  Eight  words."  The  doctor 
would  say,  "What  is  it,  my  dear?"  I  would  respond  with  some- 
thing like,  "Doctor  Gillespie,  the  other  patient  has  just  arrived," 
to  which  he  would  reply,  "Just  show  him  in,  will  you?"  Not  the 
most  deathless  of  exchanges,  but  I  wasn't  in  a  position  to  be 

The  Dr.  Gillespie  films  were  quickies,  filmed  with  a  minimum 
of  fuss  on  the  studio  back  lot.  Mr.  Barrymore  was  pretty  old  and 
sick  at  the  time,  and  because  of  that  he'd  been  given  a  special 
dispensation  (which  only  he  and  Clark  Gable  received)  to  go 
home  when  the  clock  struck  five.  It  was  about  that  hour  when 
the  time  for  my  big  line  came  around,  and  who  should  come 
trundling  up,  wheeling  himself  along  in  his  wheelchair,  but  the 
great  man  himself. 

Someone  said  to  him,  "Oh,  Mr.  Barrymore,  it's  past  five.  I 
believe  you're  supposed  to  be  on  your  way  home  by  now." 

What  did  Mr.  Barrymore  do?  He  smiled  across  at  me  and 
said,  "Leave  that  young  lady  with  no  one  to  look  at  her,  no 
one  to  respond  to  her  line?  Of  course  not.  That  would  be  un- 

And  even  though  I  was  terrified  at  the  idea  of  opening  my 
mouth  and  having  to  produce  words,  I  thought,  What  a  wonder- 
ful old  gentleman  .  .  .  and  what  lovely  old-fashioned  manners. 

Mr.  Barrymore  taught  me  something  I  never  forgot:  he  taught 
me  what  "respond"  really  means  to  an  actor.  When  you've  got  a 
close-up  to  do  or  lines  to  speak,  it's  best  if  you  can  react  to  an- 



other  performer,  to  his  or  her  facial  expression  or  voice.  That 
reaction  helps  you  to  play  your  own  part.  But  it  isn't  absolutely 
necessary  that  they  stay— a  script  girl  can  read  in  the  line  for  you 
and  her  voice  will  be  cut  in  the  editing. 

So  a  lot  of  actors  don't  stay;  they  go  back  to  their  dress- 
ing rooms  or  wherever.  But  the  good  ones,  the  great  ones  are 
always  there,  because  they  know  what  that  support  really  means. 
Clark  Gable  and  Richard  Burton  were  always  there,  and  let  me 
tell  you,  if  you're  playing  a  scene  it's  a  damn  sight  nicer  having 
Clark  or  Richard  giving  you  the  line,  or  the  smile,  or  the  scowl, 
instead  of  some  disinterested  script  girl  who's  filling  in  for  them.  I 
was,  and  still  am,  so  grateful  to  Mr.  Barrymore  for  staying  after 
hours,  grateful  for  the  presence  and  support  he  gave  me  in  my 
first-ever  spoken  line  in  movies.  It  made  all  the  difference  in  the 

In  the  next  picture,  Kid  Glove  Killer,  directed  by  that  very  fa- 
mous director  of  the  future  Fred  Zinnemann,  I  played  a  carhop 
with  a  screen  time  exposure  of  at  least  ten  seconds.  But  that  film 
is  important  to  me  because  I  met  another  young  actor,  Van 
Heflin,  whose  beautiful  wife  Frances  remained  a  firm  friend  for 
years  afterward. 

Many  months  later  I  played  in  another  Dr.  Gillespie  film,  and 
this  time  I  had  more  of  a  part.  It  was  called  Three  Men  in  White, 
a  really  silly  story,  but  Hollywood  was  awash  with  quick,  silly 
stories  in  those  war  years.  This  time  it  was  Lionel  Barrymore's 
mission  to  check  out  the  credentials  of  his  very  promising  intern, 
Van  Johnson.  Could  he  really  become  a  doctor  of  integrity  and 
character?  Would  he  be  able  to  resist  the  temptations  of  pretty 
nurses  and  patients  who  would  waste  his  time  and  drag  him 
away  from  the  stethoscope  and  rigorous  medical  procedures?  I'm 
sure  Dr.  Gillespie's  eyes  were  gleaming  behind  his  glasses  at  the 
idiocy  of  such  a  plot. 

Marilyn  Maxwell  and  I  were  chosen  from  the  studio's  starlet 
pool  as  potential  seductresses,  primed  to  test  Van  Johnson's  reso- 
lution. These  days,  given  a  theme  like  that,  the  titillation  factor 
would  certainly  be  emphasized.  In  those  days,  with  the  eyes 
of  the  Hays  office  everywhere,  we  had  to  play  it  strictly  for 

I  remember  in  one  scene  I  had  to  pretend  to  be  a  sexy  cling- 
ing lush  who  was  still  sober  enough  to  make  a  pass  at  Van  in 



the  emergency  room.  The  audience,  of  course,  already  knew 
that  I  was  really  a  sweet  young  thing  supporting  my  invalid 

Van  Johnson — I  hope  to  his  intense  regret — resisted  all  the 
efforts  of  Marilyn  and  myself  to  drag  him  into  bed.  He  proved 
himself  a  worthy  successor  to  Dr.  Gillespie,  and  everyone  lived 
happily  ever  after. 

And  for  the  first  time  film  critics  became  aware  of  my  exis- 
tence. The  Hollywood  Reporter  decided  that  Marilyn  Maxwell 
and  Ava  Gardner,  "two  of  the  smoothest  young  sirens  to  be 
found,"  were  "superb,  and  should  delight  the  studio  with  their 
histrionic  conduct  here."  This  was  the  first  film  I  received  any 
kind  of  critical  notice  in,  and,  believe  me,  it  was  nice  to  be  no- 
ticed for  something  besides  being  Mrs.  Mickey  Rooney. 

Yes,  I  was  still  seeing  Mickey  from  time  to  time.  He  was 
certain  that  this  divorce  business  was  purely  a  temporary  affair, 
that  we  would  soon  be  back  together  again.  We  were  seen  to- 
gether at  various  clubs,  and  the  columnists,  helped  by  Mickey's 
constant  assertion  that  reconciliation  was  a  sure  thing,  put  two 
and  two  together.  And  in  truth,  on  several  occasions  during  that 
period  Mickey  and  I  did  end  up  in  bed  together.  But  I  made  it 
very  clear  to  him  that  he  was  very  much  my  ex-husband.  "As  a 
husband,  you  were  a  pain  in  the  ass,"  I  told  him,  "and  as  a  wife  I 
was  probably  a  disaster.  Two  disasters  don't  make  for  a  mar- 
riage. It's  over.  Period."  Mickey  went  on  making  sad  noises 
about  us  until  almost  the  end  of  the  war,  when  he  bumped  into 
a  beauty  queen  in  Birmingham,  Alabama,  and  made  her  wife 
No.  2. 

In  between  those  two  Dr.  Gillespie  epics,  I  made  the  only  other 
of  my  early  films  that  made  any  kind  of  an  impact  on  me,  even  if 
it  didn't  do  much  for  anyone  else.  Though  my  Metro  salary  had 
by  now  risen  to  the  great  sum  of  one  hundred  dollars  a  week, 
MGM  had  decided  that  they  could  recoup  that  hundred  and 
more  by  collecting  a  fee  for  loaning  me  out  to  another  studio, 
whether  I  wanted  to  be  loaned  out  or  not.  I  got  sold  like  a  prize 
hog  as  often  as  the  studio  could  manage  it,  and,  honey,  I  hated 
that  from  day  one. 

This  first  time,  though,  being  loaned  out  did  have  some  com- 
pensations. I  was  shipped  out  to  a  Poverty  Row  company  called 
Monogram,  and,  playing  a  sweet  young  thing  named  Betty  in 



Ghosts  on  the  Loose,  I  got  my  very  first  credit  in  the  billing.  For 
some  obscure  reason,  Betty  had  been  kidnapped  by  a  gang  of 
villainous  Nazi  saboteurs  led  by  that  archfiend  Bela  Lugosi.  In 
real  life,  Bela  was  a  gentle  man  who  wouldn't  frighten  a  nervous 
kitten,  but  as  Dracula,  honey,  he'd  filled  every  movie  house  in  the 

If  you  think  the  U.S.  Cavalry  rode  to  my  rescue,  you  must 
be  in  the  wrong  movie.  It  was  Leo  Gorcey  and  the  intrepid  East 
Side  Kids,  a  gang  of  slapstick  teenagers  who  favored  baggy  pants 
and  big  caps  worn  sideways,  who  saved  me  from  Bela's  clutches. 
I  remember  in  one  scene  everyone  had  swastikas  painted  all  over 
their  faces,  so  they  could  say  they  had  German  measles:  that 
was  our  standard  of  comedy.  I  don't  remember  much  else  about 
the  film  because  it  was  shot  at  such  enormous  speed.  We  had  one 
film  stage  and  it  took  one  week.  Action — film — print!  Even  the 
little  experience  I'd  had  with  Metro  told  me  that  this  was  not  a 
quality  film.  In  one  scene  the  hero  accidentally  stumbled  over 
a  prop  and  fell.  Nobody  cared.  No  retake.  Print  it!  All  part  of 
the  glorious  fun.  The  film  is  still  shown  occasionally  on  televi- 
sion, even  these  days,  and  I  believe  people  still  laugh  at  it.  Ric 
Vallin,  the  hero,  took  me  out  to  dinner  one  night  and  I  liked  that. 
We  both  knew  we  were  not  in  the  running  for  the  Academy 

Ghosts  on  the  Loose  was  a  piece  of  sweet,  unsophisticated 
rubbish.  But  it  did  give  me  one  sudden  thrill  that  I've  never  for- 
gotten. And  although  it's  happened  a  hundred  times  since  then, 
the  feeling  of  that  first  wonderful  moment  never  returned. 

Bappie  and  I  were  walking  in  an  area  of  Los  Angeles  where  the 
theaters  didn't  show  the  best  of  movies.  I  don't  think  they  even 
showed  B  pictures — the  movies  they  played  were  of  the  XYZ  va- 
riety. But  suddenly  Bappie  gripped  my  arm  and  said  excitedly, 
"Ava!  Look!" 

High  up,  outside  one  of  the  movie  houses,  there  was  this  huge 
blazing  sign  in  electric  lights: 

Ghosts  on  the  Loose 
With  Ava  Gardner 

Oh,  my  God,  I  couldn't  believe  it.  Who  in  the  world  had 
decided  to  put  those  words  up  there  I'll  never  know.  Perhaps 

64     - 


it  was  because  I'd  been  married  to  Mickey;  I  certainly  didn't 
have  any  star  status  of  my  own.  But  at  that  moment  I  didn't 
really  care  about  the  hows  or  the  whys.  My  name  was  up  in 
lights  for  the  very  first  time  in  my  life.  I've  got  to  say  it  was  a 

thrill.  Then  it  wore  off,  and  I've  never  had  that  feeling  again. 


hat  can  I  say  about  Howard  Hughes?  A 
world-famous  aviator,  a  multi-multi- 
millionaire, a  very  complex  man,  cou- 
rageous, bold,  and  inventive?  You  bet.  But  also  painfully  shy, 
completely  enigmatic  and  more  eccentric,  honey,  than  anyone  I 
ever  met.  For  God's  sake,  he  and  I  were  born  on  the  same  day, 
and  if  you  think  that  Capricorns  fall  into  the  same  category,  you 
know  what  that  means.  I  was  never  in  love  with  him,  but  he  was 
in  and  out  of  my  life  for  something  like  twenty  very  remarkable 

One  of  the  main  reasons  Howard  and  I  got  on  for  so  long  was 
that  Howard  knew  he  could  trust  me.  No  matter  what  happened, 
and  boy,  did  a  few  things  happen,  he  could  be  certain  that  what 
went  on  between  us  was  confidential.  No  gossip  columnist  or 
newspaper  would  report  a  word  of  it. 

A  mania  for  secrecy  was  hardly  Howard's  only  eccentricity. 
His  taste  in  food,  for  instance,  was  bizarre  to  the  point  of  absur- 
dity. I  never  saw  him  eat  anything  for  dinner  but  a  steak,  green 
peas,  perhaps  a  few  potatoes  and  a  small  salad,  followed  by  ice 
cream  topped  with  caramel  sauce.  Night  after  night,  year  after 

And  Howard  was  more  than  ultraconservative  politically.  I 
would  say  he  was  a  racist  and  a  bigot.  Only  WASPs  were  on  his 
payroll;  no  Jews  or  blacks  were  allowed  to  work  in  his  plants.  He 
once  explained  to  me  his  attitude  toward  our  political  system: '"It 
doesn't  matter  to  me  which  party  gets  in.  I  contribute  equally  to 
both  of  them.  So  whatever  happens,  I  get  what  I  want." 



Money  was  the  root  of  Howard's  influence.  His  father,  the 
founder  of  Hughes  Tool  in  Houston,  Texas,  had  come  up  with  a 
shrewd  redesign  in  the  drill  head  used  to  burrow  for  oil.  His  new 
tool  went  through  layers  of  rock  as  if  they  were  cheddar  cheese. 
As  a  result,  when  the  old  man  died,  Howard  at  eighteen  or  nine- 
teen was  on  his  way  to  becoming  one  of  the  wealthiest  men  on 
earth.  And  for  the  rest  of  his  life,  he  was  enthusiastic  about  only 
four  things:  money,  movies,  aircraft,  and  beautiful  young  women 
with  beautiful  breasts.  Which,  obviously,  is  where  I  came  in. 

Howard  first  made  his  presence  felt  early  in  1943,  when  I'd 
separated  from  Mickey  but  still  hadn't  gotten  my  divorce.  I  was 
pretty  lonely,  and  when  a  neighbor  I  was  friendly  with  said,  "You 
know,  Ava,  Howard  Hughes  is  a  friend  of  mine  and  he'd  love  to 
meet  you,"  I  said,  "Okay,  invite  him  around  to  your  house  for  a 
drink  and  we'll  see  how  we  get  on." 

Now,  for  some  inexplicable  reason,  though  she  had  said 
Howard  Hughes,  my  mind  slipped  and  thought  she'd  said 
Howard  Hawks,  the  famous  film  director.  But  neither  Howard 
arrived  for  that  first  meeting.  Instead,  a  man  named  Johnny 
Meyer  did.  He  was  fat  and  bald  but  personable  and  a  nice  guy;  I 
didn't  find  out  until  much  later  that  one  of  his  jobs  for  Howard 
was  sizing  up  potential  girlfriends. 

Meyer  apologized  for  the  absence  of  Hughes/Hawks.  He'd 
been  called  away  on  urgent  business.  Something  to  do  with  the 
production  of  airplanes.  Oh,  I  thought,  he's  making  an  airplane 
picture.  But  he  added,  "I  know  that  Howard  is  dying  to  meet 
you.  Can  he  call  you  and  fix  a  date?" 

I  said,  "Sure.  I'm  usually  back  from  the  Metro  lot  by  six  or 

Next  evening  the  phone  rang  and  the  voice  said,  "This  is 
Howard.  I  think  you  met  my  colleague  Mr.  Meyer  last  night — " 


"Perhaps  we  could  have  a  drink  and  talk?" 



"Oh.  All  right.  Why  don't  you  come  round  here  and  have  a 

Howard  arrived  on  the  front  doorstep.  He  was  well  over  six 
feet  tall  but  couldn't  have  weighed  more  than  a  hundred  and  fifty 
pounds.  Thin,  bronzed,  a  small  mustache.  Eyes  dark  and  search- 
ing. A  male  man.  Secure.  Private.  But  a  nice  smile  in  a  long,  se- 



nous  face.  He  reminded  me  a  bit  of  my  father.  And  I  guessed  he 
was  at  least  fifteen  years  older  than  I  was. 

We  went  out  to  dinner  at  a  little  place  he  knew  and  I  went  on 
saying  Mr.  Hawks  this,  and  Mr.  Hawks  that,  as  we  chatted 
about  airplanes.  I  guessed  if  he  was  going  to  make  an  airplane 
picture,  we  should  be  talking  about  it.  Eventually  he  said,  "You 
know,  iny  name's  not  Hawks,  it's  Hughes." 

"I  thought  you  were  making  a  picture  about  airplanes." 

"I've  made  that  one,"  he  said. 

"What's  it  called?" 

"Hell's  Angels" 

That  stopped  me  in  my  tracks.  I  knew  about  Hell's  Angels. 
The  story  of  American  pilots  in  World  War  I,  it  had  taken  almost 
three  years  to  make  before  its  release  in  1930  and  it  had  cost 
more  than  three  and  a  half  million  dollars,  a  pretty  colossal  sum 
in  those  days.  It  also  nearly  cost  Howard  his  life.  When  his  stunt 
pilots  said  that  some  of  his  flying  ideas  verged  on  madness, 
Howard  went  up  to  show  them  how  it  was  done.  The  stunt  pilots 
were  right:  Howard  crash-landed  and  had  to  be  yanked  out  of 
the  debris  unconscious  and  rushed  to  the  hospital  with  multiple 
injuries  including  a  smashed  cheekbone. 

The  upshot  of  it  all  was  that  I  liked  him,  and  within  a  week 
Howard  and  I  were  good  friends.  He  was  a  straightforward,  no- 
bull  Texan,  direct  and  terribly  helpful  in  practically  every  way 
you  could  imagine.  As  soon  as  he  heard  that  Mama  was  very  ill 
with  cancer,  he  told  me  he'd  get  the  best  cancer  specialist  in  the 
U.S.A.  to  visit  her.  And  he  kept  his  word.  And  when  Mama  died 
and  Bappie  and  I  couldn't  get  on  a  flight  home  because  of  the 
war,  Howard  threw  a  pair  of  desk-bound  four-star  generals  off 
the  plane  so  that  we  could  get  to  Mama's  graveside.  After  all,  he 
did  own  TWA. 

And  for  as  long  as  Howard  and  I  remained  friends,  he  contin- 
ued to  make  things  easy  for  me  when  I  wanted  things  easy.  Let's 
say  I  was  in  Palm  Springs  and  I  wanted  to  go  shopping  in  Mexico 
City.  All  I  had  to  do  was  call  Howard  and  within  minutes  a 
chauffeur  was  waiting  outside  to  take  me  to  the  airport.  A  plane 
would  be  standing  by  just  to  take  me,  and  once  I  arrived  I  was 
met  by  another  chauffeured  limo  and  driven  to  the  best  hotel  in 
town,  where  a  suite  was  waiting  for  me.  If  you  wanted  to  be 
quiet  and  left  alone,  no  one  could  arrange  it  like  Howard. 



Let  me  emphasize  right  here  that  friend  is  the  word  for  our 
relationship.  Howard  didn't  make  any  extravagant  passes,  in  fact 
made  no  demands  on  me  at  all.  A  kiss  on  the  cheek  after  about 
our  tenth  dinner  was  as  far  as  he  went.  He  made  it  clear  that  he 
was  interested  in  me  emotionally  and  romantically,  but  he  was 
prepared  to  be  very  patient.  (For  my  part,  sharing  a  bed  with  him 
was  always  one  length  I  couldn't  imagine  myself  going  to.) 

Not  that  this,  or  for  that  matter  anything  else,  deterred 
Howard.  When  Howard  Hughes  wanted  something,  he  went 
after  it  with  tunnel  vision,  and  he  saw  no  reason  not  to  use  the 
same  tactics  on  the  gentlemanly  seduction  of  me.  He  was,  some- 
one once  said,  like  a  spoiled  child  when  he  couldn't  get  what  he 
wanted,  whining  and  wailing  about  it  until  he  did.  He  could  also 
be  determinedly  vengeful  if  anyone  crossed  or  opposed  him. 

Even  in  those  early  weeks  I  discovered  just  how  private 
Howard  wanted  to  be.  He  didn't  trust  many  places.  One  of  the 
ones  he  did  was  the  Town  House,  where  he  could  get  his  favorite 
steak,  and  the  Player's  Club  on  Sunset  Boulevard,  run  by  the  fa- 
mous movie  director  Preston  Sturges.  Preston  would  keep  it  open 
with  an  orchestra  in  attendance  just  for  Howard  and  me.  Because 
Howard  loved  to  dance.  Unfortunately,  Howard  was  a  lousy 
dancer.  There  are  four  sorts  of  dancers:  the  good  dancers,  and 
the  hoppers,  jumpers,  and  pushers.  And  with  the  exception  of 
Mickey,  I've  never  had  a  husband  or  boyfriend  who  was  a  good 
dancer.  Frank  Sinatra  and  Artie  Shaw  were  useless  on  the  dance 
floor.  I  have  an  idea  that  being  musicians  they  were  always  a 
fraction  ahead  of  the  beat,  never  quite  right  on  it,  so  you  fol- 
lowed hopefully  and  got  dragged  along.  And  Howard  clutched 
you  so  hard  it  was  like  he  was  afraid  he  might  lose  you  in  the 
crush.  As  we  were  all  alone  on  the  Player's  Club  dance  floor,  that 
was  always  a  bit  odd.  In  fact,  he  nearly  squashed  me  to  death. 

Being  low  profile  also  extended  to  Howard's  ideas  of  appropri- 
ate dress,  which  in  practice  meant  looking  very  much  like  a 
tramp.  What  other  multimillionaire  could  get  tossed  off  a  yacht 
he  was  about  to  buy  when  one  of  its  officers  came  up  and  tersely 
said,  "Get  ashore,  bud.  We've  hired  all  the  crew  we  need." 

Clothes  also  figured  in  another  one  of  Howard's  spectacular 
plane  crashes.  Bappie  and  I  were  staying  at  the  Desert  Inn  in  Las 
Vegas  with  Howard  when  he  decided  to  make  a  farewell  test 
flight  over  Lake  Mead  in  his  Sikorsky  amphibian  plane.  The  war 



was  still  going  on,  and  naturally  the  Air  Force  wanted  to  requisi- 
tion the  thing  and  test  it  for  themselves.  Howard,  however,  being 
Howard,  was  reluctant  to  part  with  one  of  his  favorite  planes 
and  asked  for  that  one  last  flight. 

With  four  government  officials  on  board  and  Howard  at  the 
controls,  the  plane  clipped  the  water  with  a  wing  as  it  attempted 
a  landing  and  went  straight  into  the  lake.  Two  of  the  government 
men  were  killed  and  Howard,  copilot  Glenn  Odekirk,  and  the 
other  two  were  fished  out  just  in  time,  escaping  with  little  more 
than  bruises. 

Howard,  however,  had  lost  almost  all  his  clothes.  The  first 
thing  he  did  was  borrow  a  tweed  jacket  from  his  copilot,  which 
was  a  mistake  to  begin  with  because  Glen  was  a  short,  power- 
fully built  man  and  Howard  was  a  six-foot-three  beanpole.  And 
then  he  marched  into  the  J.  C.  Penney  store  in  Boulder  City,  Ne- 
vada, and  bought  a  pair  of  khaki  trousers  for  around  a  dollar 
ninety-eight,  the  cheapest  pair  he  could  find. 

Fll  never  forget  seeing  Howard  in  that  outfit,  the  pants  starting 
six  inches  above  his  ankles  and  the  jacket  sleeves  starting  six 
inches  above  his  wrists.  It  was  no  use  telling  him  about  it;  to  my 
knowledge  he  wore  that  same  outfit  night  and  day  for  at  least  five 
years.  He  was  someone  who  would  spend  hundreds  of  thousands 
of  dollars  dredging  the  amphibian  from  the  bottom  of  the  lake 
but  wouldn't  go  over  a  dollar  ninety-eight  for  a  pair  of  pants.  Say 
what  you  like  about  Howard,  he  was  his  own  man. 

One  day,  out  of  the  blue,  Howard  suddenly  suggested  we 
spend  a  few  days  together  in  San  Francisco.  Marvelous!  I  was 
always  happy  to  go  anywhere  with  Howard.  And  Howard  had 
always  been  the  gallant  Texas  gentleman,  always  responsive  to  a 
lady's  no.  So  how  was  I  to  know  that  Howard  was  in  a  rare  Don 
Juan  mood,  working  on  a  plan  called  How  to  Seduce  a  Girl  with 
a  Few  Samples  of  Everything  She  Adores. 

Bappie  thought  it  was  a  great  idea.  Bappie  was  totally  con- 
vinced that  any  girl  who  had  the  chance  to  become  the  bride  of 
the  "richest-man-in-the-world"  was  crazy  to  even  think  of  taking 
evasive  action.  I  knew  this  because  sometimes  when  I  was  away 
Howard  would  come  to  the  apartment  and  sit  there  talking  with 
Bappie  for  hour  after  hour,  and  his  romantic  intentions  would 
inevitably  surface. 

Anyway,  I  loved  San  Francisco:  its  up  and  downs,  the  Golden 



Gate  Bridge,  the  clanking  cable  cars,  the  marvelous  restaurants 
and  little  clubs  where  you  could  dance  the  night  away.  And 
Howard  and  I  were  going  to  be  traveling  on  the  Santa  Fe  first 
class,  two  sleeping  cabins,  champagne,  the  lot.  I  decided  to  be  at 
my  chicest,  to  bring  the  best  and  most  expensive  clothes  I  owned: 
a  navy  blue  outfit  from  Irene,  one  of  the  great  designers  at  Metro, 
a  really  smart  tailored  suit  for  traveling,  very  high  heels,  the  per- 
fect bag,  just  the  right  gloves.  After  all,  Bappie  worked  at  a  store 
that  specialized  in  such  items,  so  I  could  afford  to  be  very  high 

Howard  was  picking  me  up  and  driving  us  to  the  station,  and 
Bappie,  who  wasn't  going  with  us,  was  looking  out  of  the  win- 
dow waiting  for  him.  I  heard  her  murmur  something  and  I  hur- 
ried across  to  see  what'd  happened  outside,  took  one  peek  out 
the  window,  and  screamed,  "In  that?  I'm  not  going  in  that!" 

That  was  Howard's  so-called  car  from  which  he  was  in  the 
process  of  emerging.  I  could  bear  the  way  he  was  dressed,  in  his 
shiny  blue  serge  suit,  the  trousers  held  up  by  a  tie,  the  sort  you 
usually  wear  around  your  neck,  the  coat  slung  over  his  shoulder, 
his  shoelaces  undone.  Fd  borne  it  for  weeks.  I'd  even  be  willing 
to  bear  it  on  the  Santa  Fe.  But  taking  that  car  to  the  station?  No 

Later  I  learned  that  it,  the  vehicle  in  question,  belonged  to 
Howard's  cook,  Eddie.  Howard  had  just  borrowed  it.  It  was  not 
a  car,  it  was  a  wreck — battered,  filthy,  and  worst  of  all,  it  had  no 
hood  to  conceal  the  nasty-looking  engine.  I'd  never  driven  in  a 
car  without  a  hood  before  and  I  wasn't  eager  to  start. 

I  said,  "Here  I  am  dressed  up  like  a  thousand  dollars  and  he 
expects  me  to  be  driven  to  the  station  in  an  old  jalopy  without  a 

"It's  not  far,"  said  Bappie  soothingly.  I  said,  "I'm  dressed 
pretty,  and  I'm  not  about  to  sit  in  that  wreck!  We'll  drive  in  my 

Bappie  was  disbelieving.  "He's  the  richest  man  in  the  world, 
and  you're  going  to  refuse  to  travel  in  his  car?" 

I  said,  "That's  not  a  car,  that's  something  from  a  wrecker's 

Fd  said  over  and  over  again  to  Howard,  "Please  get  a  new  suit, 
please  get  something.  I'll  even  buy  you  one  if  you  can't  afford  it." 
And  now  I  could  see,  piled  in  the  back  of  that  dreadful  vehicle 



down  below,  Howard's  usual  assortment  of  custom-made  white 
cardboard  boxes,  all  constructed  to  his  specific  instructions.  One 
held  clean  shirts,  another  had  underclothes,  a  third  toilet  articles. 
That  was  Howard's  idea  of  luggage. 

Howard  arrived  in  the  apartment  and  we  discussed  the  whole 
matter.  Bappie  was  totally  on  Howard's  side.  She  always  was.  I 
don't  blame  her.  Here  was  her  daft  kid  sister  who  had  a  chance 
of  catching  a  tycoon  as  wealthy  and  powerful  as  Howard.  Why 
didn't  we  let  her  drive  us  to  the  station  in  her  car  if  I  didn't  like 

I  said  savagely,  "Howard's  probably  entering  his  for  the  'Heap 
of  the  Year'  award." 

Howard  wasn't  put  out.  Didn't  really  know  what  the  girls 
were  arguing  about  and  what  I  was  complaining  about.  By  this 
time  we  were  approaching  train  departure  time,  and  I  had  taken 
alcoholic  refuge  in  a  couple  of  large  drinks.  So  my  better  judg- 
ment got  fuzzy  and,  helped  by  the  booze,  I  started  to  see  the 
funny  side  of  the  situation.  I  agreed  to  go  in  Howard's  heap, 
avoiding  all  the  odd  looks  when  we  finally  reached  Union  Sta- 
tion. We  were  shown  to  our  sleeping  compartments,  mine  next 
door  to  his,  and  the  train  began  chugging  up  the  California  coast. 

One  little  thing  that  happened  soon  after  we  started  did  sur- 
prise me  slightly.  After  I  closed  the  door  to  my  compartment, 
without  thinking  about  it  I  closed  the  latch.  About  three  seconds 
later  there  was  a  knock  on  the  door,  and  a  very  sad-faced 
Howard  stood  there  saying  quietly,  "You  didn't  have  to  do  that." 
This  was  a  man  who  supposedly  had  been  deaf  since  he  was  a 
kid,  someone  I'd  seen  hold  a  hearing  aid  in  his  hand  and  switch  it 
on  and  off  when  he  felt  like  it.  But  before  I  could  ask  him  how  he 
could  possibly  hear  such  a  tiny  click,  he  said,  "Why  don't  you  go 
into  the  bar?  You'll  find  a  nice  surprise  there.  I'll  join  you  in  a 
few  minutes." 

Off  I  went.  Those  bar  cars,  with  those  magnificent  black  wait- 
ers absolutely  impeccable  in  their  smart  uniforms,  made  train 
journeys  in  the  forties  a  great  experience.  I  sat  alone  at  a  small 
table,  conscious  that  everyone  was  eyeing  me  and  wondering 
who  this  unescorted  young  woman  might  be.  I  was  ready  to  be 
patient;  when  Howard  said  he  would  see  you  in  a  couple  of  sec- 
onds, it  could  be  a  couple  of  years.  Then  one  of  the  waiters 
arrived  bearing  one  of  Howard's  larger-sized  white  cardboard 



boxes  and  laboriously  began  to  undo  it.  He  extracted  wads  of 
newspaper.  Everyone  in  the  car  was  enjoying  Howard's  surprise, 
especially  the  newspaper  wrapping.  And  out  came  a  bottle  of  the 
finest  vintage  champagne,  perfectly  chilled,  perfectly  wonderful. 
Why  the  hell  he  couldn't  have  asked  the  waiter  to  bring  it  over  to 
me  unwrapped,  let  me  examine  the  label,  and  then  hand  it  over 
to  the  barman  to  serve,  only  Howard  knew.  Perhaps  he  thought 
there  was  something  magical  in  white  cardboard  boxes.  I'd  love 
to  have  heard  a  psychiatrist  on  that  subject. 

The  champagne  certainly  was  magical  Two  glasses  and  I  was 
smiling  at  anybody  who  wanted  to  smile  back.  A  third  and  I  was 
almost  prepared  for  Howard.  Almost 

Through  the  doorway,  almost  mincing  toward  me,  came 
Howard.  The  rejuvenated  Howard,  the  resplendent  Howard, 
pleased  as  a  little  boy  exhibiting  his  first  grownup  suit.  Except 
that  it  wasn't  a  new  suit;  it  was  an  ice-cream-colored  affair  that 
he  must  have  worn  at  some  high  school  or  college  function  about 
twenty  years  before.  Howard,  the  shy  one,  the  invisible  one,  pir- 
ouetting like  a  goddamn  male  mannequin,  oblivious  of  the  belt  in 
the  back  and  pleats  that  must  have  gone  out  with  dueling.  As 
usual  the  sleeves  were  four  inches  too  short  and  the  trouser  legs 
six  inches  above  his  socks,  but  he  had  put  on  a  splendid  white 
shirt  and  a  tie.  Now  I  was  getting  it.  This  was  the  surprise.  That 
wreck  of  a  car  and  those  old  clothes  had  all  been  a  bluff.  Emerg- 
ing now  was  the  dandy,  the  toast  of  Phi  Beta  Kappa,  the  sharp 
dresser,  the  man  who  could  impress  Ava  Gardner  in  the  flash  of 
ice-cream-colored  linen  .  .  .  and  he  was  deadly  serious.  The  in- 
habitants of  the  club  car  were  transfixed.  Stunned  into  silence, 
they  could  not  believe  the  performance.  I  did  my  best  to  look 
appreciative,  choking  back  the  words,  "God  almighty,  Howard, 
which  trunk  did  you  dig  that  out  from?" 

Thank  God  for  the  champagne.  Howard  chanced  a  glass  and  I 
drank  the  rest,  which  made  me  glow  and  beam  at  Howard  as  if  I 
knew  intuitively  that  he'd  spent  at  least  a  week  selecting  this  ele- 
gant outfit  at  Brooks  Brothers.  By  the  time  we  puffed  into  San 
Francisco  the  next  day,  Howard  was  looking  as  if  he'd  just  won 
an  Oscar. 

Our  hotel,  the  Fairmount,  sat  magnificently  on  the  top  of  Nob 
Hill,  and  our  suite  was  glorious. 

I  say  our  suite  because  Howard  had  allotted  himself  just  a 



small  room  next  door  to  my  magnificent  drawing  room,  bed- 
room, and  bathroom.  There  was  however,  a  connecting  door, 
which  I  immediately  locked  to  make  certain  there  weren't  going 
to  be  any  misunderstandings,  whether  Howard  was  sad-faced  or 

More  champagne  was  waiting  in  the  drawing  room,  this  time 
in  a  silver  bucket,  thank  God.  But  now  Howard  was  in  a  hurry. 
"Let's  go  shopping!"  he  said  with  a  laugh  and  the  knowing  look 
that  a  husband  gives  his  wife  when  she  knows  this  is  an  oppor- 
tunity not  to  be  missed.  Trouble  was,  I  must  be  one  of  the  few 
women  in  the  world  who  could  miss  shopping  without  a  single 
regret.  "Why  don't  we  have  cocktails,  drink  some  more  cham- 
pagne, have  a  bath,  think  about  dinner?"  I  said. 

"Shopping  first,"  replied  Howard  adamantly.  "The  rest  is  all 

A  taxi  was  waiting  and  we  were  driven  off  to  the  town's  best 
department  store.  I  didn't  know  a  thing  about  San  Francisco 
shopping,  but  the  place  was  huge,  holding  all  the  goodies  in  the 
universe.  We  got  out  and  Howard  said,  "Now,  I  want  you  to  go 
in  there  and  buy  whatever  you  want.  I'll  come  back  and  pay  for 
it.  Whatever  you  want — remember  that." 

On  later  reflection  I  suppose  I  should  have  come  out  bearing  a 
sable  coat  over  one  arm  and  wearing  a  diamond  bracelet  on  each 
wrist,  or,  if  I  was  modest,  at  least  a  new  toothbrush,  as  the  offer 
from  the  "richest-man-in-the-world"  was  plainly  genuine.  But  all 
I  did  was  wander  miserably  around  the  store.  I  remember  they 
had  some  wonderful  jade,  which  was  fantastically  expensive. 
Now,  I  love  jade,  and  occasionally  these  days  I  think:  Why,  oh, 
why  didn't  I  do  as  I  was  told?  But  I  wasn't  feeling  that  way  then. 

Naturally,  no  sign  of  Howard,  and  I  got  so  bored  in  the  store  I 
went  and  waited  for  him  outside.  I  probably  waited  for  forty-five 
minutes,  maybe  an  hour,  and  suddenly  there  comes  Howard 
walking  down  the  street  carrying — oh,  God  help  me — another 
white  cardboard  box.  If  I'd  known  what  was  in  it  I  might  have 
dropped  dead! 

Back  at  the  hotel  I  dressed  for  dinner  in  my  chic  cocktail  dress, 
not  knowing  quite  where  we  were  going  because  Howard  was 
being  cagey  about  his  plans.  Knowing  him,  I  knew  we  were  just 
as  likely  to  end  up  in  some  greasy  spoon  where  he  could  eat  his 
eternal  steak  and  peas  followed  by  ice  cream  and  caramel  sauce. 



And  my  expectations  were  not  raised  when  I  saw  that  Howard 
had  abandoned  the  vanilla  suit  for  the  original  dark  blue  shiny 
one.  But  I  was  wrong.  Before  we  left,  he  presented  me  with  an 
exquisitely  made  gold  ring  set  with  sapphires,  and  for  dinner  and 
dancing  we  went  to  a  wonderful  restaurant  with  a  marvelous 
band.  Howard  and  I  were  on  the  floor  within  seconds,  and  Mr. 
Bear-Hugger  was  holding  me  so  tight  that  I  sometimes  wondered 
if  my  feet  were  even  managing  to  touch  the  floor. 

More  booze,  a  lot  of  laughter,  and  then  on  to  a  cabaret  club 
that  was  totally  unlike  anything  Fd  ever  been  in  with  Howard 
before.  This  was  a  gay  club,  and  though  usually  with  Howard  we 
were  tucked  away  in  back,  hidden  from  everybody's  eyes,  now 
we  had  seats  in  the  front  row.  The  show  was  hilarious:  all  these 
drag  queens  in  wigs  and  gowns,  lipsticked  and  mascaraed,  a  lot 
of  them  looking  like  Dracula's  mother,  told  absolutely  out- 
rageous jokes.  It  was  so  funny  I  was  falling  out  of  my  seat,  and 
Howard  was  laughing,  too. 

It  was  very  late  when  we  left.  In  the  hotel  we  were  alone  in  the 
elevator  except  for  the  piles  of  Sunday  newspapers  awaiting  dis- 
tribution later  that  morning.  Casually  I  picked  up  the  section 
with  the  funnies.  I  was  smiling  at  them  even  as  Howard  was  un- 
locking the  door  of  our  suite. 

There  was  another  bottle  of  champagne  chilling  in  the  ice 
bucket,  even  a  bottle  in  my  bedroom  awaiting  attention  if  neces- 

But  the  evening  was  over  as  far  as  I  was  concerned.  Fd  had  a 
gorgeous  time  and  now  I  sat  myself  down  to  laugh  at  the  funnies. 
I  didn't  notice  that  Howard  was  growing  colder  by  the  minute. 

Now — years  later — I  can  understand  his  feelings.  He  had  done 
his  best,  thrown  caution  to  the  winds,  exhibited  this  brand-new 
free-wheeling,  devil-may-care  Howard,  the  snappy  dresser,  the 
champagne  drinker,  the  dancer,  the  man  who  could  show  a  girl 
like  me  a  really  good  time.  "Fm  going  to  please  this  girl  if  it  kills 
me."  If  only  he  could  have  understood  that  Fm  so  much  simpler 
to  please  than  that.  Now,  I  can  understand.  The  perfect  woman 
of  Howard's  dreams  should  have  been  falling  into  his  arms  at 
that  moment. 

Howard  opened  a  bottle — the  pop  didn't  even  disturb  me — 
and  came  across  to  me  with  a  glass.  I  said,  "No,  thank  you,"  and 
chuckled  at  some  dumb  item  I  was  reading. 



Howard  took  the  glass  away,  and  came  back  and  stood  over 
me.  Then,  suddenly,  he  swooped  down,  violently  tore  the  paper 
out  of  my  hand,  and  threw  it  on  the  floor. 

I  couldn't  believe  it.  I  was  outraged.  A  marvelous  night  like 
this  and  he  had  to  spoil  it  with  one  rude,  dramatic  gesture.  I 
kicked  off  my  shoe  so  hard  it  left  an  imprint  on  the  ceiling. 

No  screams  of  anger  from  me  either.  I  was  up  and  into  my 
bedroom  within  three  seconds.  Door  shut,  bang!  Door  locked, 
click!  Check  that  the  connecting  door  between  rooms  is  locked 
and  bolted.  Good!  I'm  sure  if  I'd  had  a  hammer  and  nails  close  at 
hand  I'd  have  nailed  up  the  windows. 

Then  I  sat  on  the  bed.  Totally  miserable.  What  was  the  matter 
with  the  man?  What  had  I  done  wrong?  And  now  what  was  I 
going  to  do?  How  was  I  going  to  get  out  of  there?  I  wanted  to  go 
home.  I  wanted  to  be  safe  in  my  little  apartment  in  Westwood. 
What  had  started  so  well  had  turned  into  a  terrible,  terrible 
night.  Even  when  I  pried  open  the  champagne  to  see  if  that 
would  help,  it  didn't. 

I  must  have  fallen  asleep,  for  I  was  awakened  eventually  by  a 
knocking  on  the  door  and  a  voice  calling,  "It's  Bappie,  it's  Bap- 
pie.  Open  up." 

Bappie?  I  let  her  in  and  asked,  "How  the  hell  did  you  get  from 
L.A.  to  San  Francisco  so  quick?" 

"Howard  rang  me  at  dawn.  Said  there  was  a  private  plane 
waiting  for  me  at  the  airport,  that  I  had  to  catch  it — it  was 

I  told  her,  "What's  urgent  is  getting  me  back  to  L.A." 

Bappie  led  me  back  to  the  stupendous  bed,  propped  me  up 
against  the  silken  pillows,  patted  my  hand,  and  tried  to  calm  me 
down.  I  could  tell  she  was  very  excited  about  something.  "He 
gave  you  a  gold  ring  last  night?" 

"Here  it  is.  Give  it  back.  He  wants  it  back,  I  expect." 

"Ava,  are  you  out  of  your  mind?" 

I  glared.  She'd  come  all  the  way  from  Wilshire  Boulevard  to 
tell  me  I  was  out  of  my  mind?  Yes,  I  was  out  of  my  mind  to  trust 
Howard  Hughes.  "He's  humiliated  me  ..."  I  began. 

Bappie  cut  me  off.  "Ava,  do  you  know  what  he's  got  in  a  card- 
board box  in  there?" 

"I  couldn't  care  less." 

Bappie's  eyes  and  voice  were  bright  with  excitement.  "It's  full 



of  the  most  wonderful  jewelry  I've  ever  seen.  A  million  dollars' 
worth.  He  bought  it  yesterday  from  Tiffany's  or  somewhere," 

I  thought,  so  that's  what  he  was  doing  when  he  left  me  ma- 
rooned in  that  store. 

Bappie  was  practically  drooling.  "I've  been  talking  to  him  for 
an  hour.  He's  desperate.  He's  shown  me  some  of  the  pieces.  I've 
just  held  in  my  hand  a  brooch — solid  gold,  encrusted  with  dia- 
monds, emeralds,  and  rubies  .  .  .  God  almighty,  Ava,  in  all  my 
life,  nowhere  have  I  seen  such  jewelry.  I'm  going  back  to  get  you 
a  piece  to  look  at — " 

I  said,  "I  don't  want  to  see  his  goddamn  jewelry,  I  want  to  go 

"Ava,  you  can't.  Don't  you  understand  this  is  his  way  of  get- 
ting engaged?  For  a  whole  seven  days  he  is  going  to  give  you  a 
wonderful  piece  of  jewelry  before  breakfast,  before  lunch,  and 
before  dinner,  each  getting  more  and  more  beautiful  and  more 
and  more  valuable.  That  gold  ring  last  night  was  the  first  gift. 
Now,  shall  I  tell  him  you're  sorry?" 

"Sorry!"  I  yelled.  "Tell  him  he  can  take  the  whole  damned  lot 
and  stick  it  up  his  ass!" 

"Well,  I'll  say  you're  upset." 

"Upset!"  My  dignity  had  been  insulted  and  my  voice  was  loud. 
"Tell  him  I  never  want  to  see  him  again  as  long  as  I  live.  Do  you 
know  what  he  did?  I  was  humiliated  ...  I  was  frightened  ...  I 
was  .  .  ." 

What  else  had  he  done?  I  couldn't  think. 

"All  he  did  was  knock  a  silly  newspaper  out  of  your  hand." 
Bappie  was  plainly  on  his  side.  "Is  that  so  dreadful  when  he  was 
about  to  tell  you  of  the  wonderful  surprise  he  had  in  store  for 
you?  Think  about  it.  I'll  go  back  and  talk  to  him.  He's  upset, 
even  if  you're  not." 

Out  she  trotted  across  the  drawing  room,  down  the  corridor 
and  round  to  Howard's  tiny  garret.  As  far  as  I  was  concerned 
that  was  the  only  line  of  communication  open  between  me  and 
the  enemy.  And  this  went  on  not  for  minutes  but  for  hours.  Poor 
Bappie  was  acting  as  a  Western  Union  messenger,  shuttling  be- 
tween bedroom,  drawing  room,  corridor,  Howard's  garret,  and 
back  again.  Howard  surrendered.  He  was  willing  to  compromise, 
apologize,  start  over  again  as  if  nothing  had  happened.  Let  the 
magic  week  continue — and  the  gifts  be  showered.  According  to 



Bappie's  breathless  testimony,  there  were  twenty-eight  pieces  of 
glorious  jewelry  in  that  box.  "God  almighty,  Ava,  I've  just  held  a 
gold  bracelet  in  my  hand  studded  with  diamonds  that  weighs  a 
ton.  Not  three  pieces  a  day  ...  four!  One  before  breakfast, 
lunch,  and  dinner  and  'one  before  she  goes  to  sleep.'  Isn't  that 
sweet?  'One  before  she  goes  to  sleep.5" 

"With  him  around  111  never  go  to  sleep.  Pve  had  no  sleep  all 
night.  I've  been  laughed  at,  hurt,  and  humiliated.  You  weren't 
there  when  he  came  in  in  that  goddamn  ice-cream  suit.  Go  in  and 
tell  him  that.  No,  not  about  the  suit,  about  the  humiliation." 

Poor  Bappie,  she  must  have  made  twenty  journeys.  Like  most 
normal,  well-adjusted  women,  she  loved  jewelry,  and  most 
women  would  have  given  their  souls  for  some  of  that  stuff.  I 
admit  it  would  have  kept  me  for  the  rest  of  my  life.  But  at  that 
moment,  with  my  temper  aroused,  I  just  didn't  care.  I  knew  ex- 
actly what  I  wanted  and  what  I  didn't,  and  what  I  did  not  want 
was  Howard.  My  final  ultimatum  was:  "And  if  he  thinks  Fm 
going  back  in  that  lousy  train,  he's  got  another  think  coining.  If 
he  can  spend  a  fortune  flying  you  here  in  a  private  plane,  he  can 
spend  another  fortune  flying  us  back  again." 

And  he  did. 

All  I  wanted  to  do  was  go  home.  I  didn't  want  any  of  those 
gems  or  any  part  of  Howard,  and  I  didn't  want  any  more  of  San 
Francisco,  no  matter  how  romantic  it  might  be.  Maybe  I  was  a 
fool,  but  never  mind,  that  was  the  way  I  was.  I  wanted  to  be  in 
love,  not  bought  for  a  damn  box  of  jewelry. 

Howard,  however,  saw  things  differently.  I  used  to  say  that  he 
met  every  train,  plane,  and  bus  that  passed  through  L.A.,  picked 
out  the  prettiest  ladies,  put  them  under  contract,  and  squirreled 
them  away  in  a  house  somewhere.  Even  MGM  wasn't  as  single- 
minded  as  Howard.  He  generally  had  five  women  at  a  time 
stashed  away  in  various  corners  of  the  city.  As  it  turned  out, 
many  of  these  girls  never  even  met  Howard — they  were  just  part 
of  the  general  turnover.  After  all,  even  Casanova  or  the  Sultan  of 
Zanzibar  might  have  found  keeping  five  women  happy  a  tiring 
occupation.  And  Howard  was  a  very  busy  man  besides,  produc- 
ing movies  and  airplanes  and  who  knows  what  else.  So  I  think  a 
lot  of  his  affairs  took  place  primarily  in  his  mind:  his  sexual  am- 
bitions were  always  greater  than  his  prowess. 

It  was  through  Charlie  Guest  that  I  found  out  so  much  about 



Howard's  women.  He  was  one  of  Howard's  "associates"  for 
years,  the  man  in  charge  of  the  housing  situation  for  the  young 
ladies.  Charlie  had  a  quiet  voice,  a  lined  face,  a  wry  twist  to  his 
lips,  and  rather  tired  blue  eyes.  He  was  divorced  and  he  drank 
too  much;  life  had  defeated  him  and  he  managed  to  live  with  that 
knowledge.  Bappie  met  him  and  fell  in  love — after  the  antics  of 
Larry  Tarr,  he  must  have  been  a  rest  cure.  Bappie  and  I  had 
moved  into  our  first  house,  a  small  but  pretty  place  we  rented  in 
Nichols  Canyon,  and  Charlie  moved  in  with  us.  And  he  played  a 
part  in  an  evening  with  Howard  that  set  new  standards,  even  for 

It  started  late  one  afternoon  when  the  phone  rang.  It  was 
Johnny  Meyer,  Howard's  aide-de-camp. 

"Hi,  Ava,"  he  said  cheerfully.  "Howard's  flying  back  to  Los 
Angeles  this  evening,  and  he  wants  you  and  me  to  go  out  to  the 
airport  and  meet  him." 

Now  I  had  a  date  with  Mickey  that  night.  And  I  felt  that 
Howard  just  couldn't  call  up  and  expect  me  to  run  out  to  the 
airport  because  he  felt  lonely  on  the  tarmac. 

"Sorry,  Johnny,"  I  answered.  "I  can't  do  that.  I'm  busy." 

Johnny  was  much  too  clever  to  say,  "Busy  doing  what?"  He 
said  only,  "Howard  will  be  a  bit  upset." 

"Well,"  I  said,  "he'll  just  have  to  be  a  bit  upset."  Though 
Howard  wasn't  keeping  me,  he  was  always  taking  me  out  to  din- 
ner and  dancing,  not  to  mention  paying  for  lessons  in  golf,  ten- 
nis, even  skeet  shooting.  Given  all  that,  I  realized  I  wasn't  being 
very  pleasant.  He  was  playing  a  long  waiting  game  for  a  pretty 
Southern  belle,  a  fact  that  I  understood  and  appreciated.  But  I 
was  at  no  man's  beck  and  call. 

Anyway,  I  went  out  and  had  dinner  with  Mickey.  He  had  an 
early  call,  and  I  was  a  working  girl,  too,  so  we  said  good  night 
and  I  went  home  early  to  Nichols  Canyon.  I  had  a  quick  drink 
with  Bappie  and  Charlie  and  then  went  upstairs  to  bed. 

It  was  quite  late  when  I  was  awakened  by  the  light  being 
switched  on  and  there  was  Howard,  standing  in  my  bedroom. 
Bappie  and  Charlie  must  have  let  him  in.  He  came  to  the  bed  and 
stood  over  me,  and  I  could  see  he  was  very,  very  angry.  With 
natural  female  intuition,  I  knew  that  he'd  arrived  silently  like 
this,  without  even  bothering  to  knock,  because  he  thought  he 
would  catch  me  in  bed  with  Mickey.  No  doubt  Howard's  net- 



work  of  spies  had  informed  him  that  I  was  seeing  Mickey  again. 
And  why  not?  1  was  divorced.  I  was  a  free  woman.  I  did  not 
belong  to  Howard  Hughes.  And  now,  his  suspicions  revealed,  he 
was  at  a  disadvantage  and  looking  rather  foolish.  I  smiled  at  him 
and  said,  "Why  .  .  .  Howard.  Why  don't  you  go  downstairs?  I'll 
put  on  a  robe  and  join  you  there." 

So  off  he  went,  very  red-faced,  and  a  few  minutes  later  I  joined 
him  in  the  little  bar.  There  were  a  couple  of  heavy  hardwood 
chairs  in  the  room,  a  few  odds  and  ends  on  the  bar,  and  Howard 
hanging  around  and  looking  as  if  he'd  just  been  told  he'd  con- 
tracted a  severe  form  of  leprosy. 

And  I  was  still  smiling  a  superior  smile,  because  I  hate  being 
spied  upon.  Howard  knew  he  was  in  the  wrong,  and  suddenly,  he 
completely  lost  his  temper,  pushed  me  back  into  one  of  the 
wooden  chairs,  held  me  down  with  one  arm,  and  started  hitting 
me  across  the  face  with  his  open  hand.  Baby,  I  saw  stars.  And  it 
hurt — badly — and  I  could  feel  my  face  swelling  and  my  eye  clos- 
ing. But  most  of  all  I  felt  anger,  violent  anger.  I'd  never  been  hit 
like  that  before  in  my  entire  life — and  all  because  of  his  goddamn 
pride  and  jealousy.  He  walked  away  from  me  across  the  room, 
and  let  me  tell  you,  I  was  not  going  to  hit  back,  I  was  going  to 
kill  the  bastard — stone  dead!  I  groped  around  the  bar  for  some- 
thing to  throw  at  him,  the  lamp,  anything,  and  my  hand  closed 
around  the  handle  of  a  large  heavy  bronze  bell — the  sort  town 
criers  use  in  England — and  I  threw  it  at  him  with  all  my  strength. 
He  had  just  half-turned  back  toward  me  when  it  hit  him,  bang, 
between  the  temple  and  cheek.  He  went  over  backward,  with  the 
blood  pouring  out.  And  I  was  right  after  him.  He  wasn't  dead 
yet,  and  I  was  going  to  kill  him.  I  grabbed  a  big  hardwood 
chair — God  knows  how  I  lifted  it — and  lurched  over  to  smash 
him  to  death. 

All  this  must  have  made  a  lot  of  noise  and  alerted  our  elderly 
black  maid  as  well  as  Bappie  and  Charlie.  Because  as  I  was 
poised  with  the  chair  above  my  head,  ready  to  smash  it  down  on 
Howard,  the  maid  banged  open  the  door,  saw  me  there,  and 
yelled,  "Ava!  Ava!  Drop  it!  Drop  it!"  Her  loud  voice  and  the  fact 
that  she  called  me  "Ava"  instead  of  "Miss  Gardner"  stopped  me 
dead  in  my  tracks,  and  I  stood  back,  trembling  as  my  violent 
anger  began  to  ebb  away.  If  she  hadn't  rushed  in,  God  knows 
what  I  might  have  done.  I  put  the  chair  down  and  all  hell  broke 



loose.  Not  over  me — over  poor  Howard  lying  on  the  floor  and 
bleeding  everywhere. 

"Quick,  Charlie,"  Bappie  said.  "Get  an  ambulance,  get  a  doc- 
tor. Poor  Howard,  poor  Howard!" 

I  said,  "Fuck  poor  Howard,"  and  went  off  to  the  bathroom  to 
examine  the  bruises  on  my  face,  and  my  huge  black  eye.  I  was 
furious  with  Bappie  and  Charlie  Guest.  So  Howard  was  Charlie's 
boss?  I  couldn't  have  cared  less.  In  my  terms  he  was  just  a  god- 
damn woman  beater. 

Bappie  outlined  his  injuries  later.  I  had  split  his  face  open  from 
temple  to  mouth,  knocked  out  two  of  his  teeth,  and  loosened 
others.  I  felt  no  remorse.  In  the  hospital  he  had  about  five  expen- 
sive doctors  sewing  him  up  and  putting  him  back  together  again. 
All  I  had  was  our  nice  old  black  maid  who  fished  a  piece  of  raw 
steak  out  of  the  icebox  and  placed  it  over  my  black  eye  to  help 
with  the  swelling. 

One  would  have  thought,  one  might  even  have  been  forgiven 
for  hoping,  that  after  that  debacle  Howard's  interest  in  me  would 
not  only  have  waned,  it  would  have  disappeared  altogether.  But 
oh,  no.  In  Howard's  terms,  he'd  just  lost  a  round,  and  within 
three  or  four  weeks  he  was  back  in  circulation,  calling  me  up  as  if 
nothing  unusual  had  ever  happened.  It  was  hard  for  Howard  to 
take  no  for  an  answer,  even  when  it  was  delivered  in  the  shape  of 
a  heavy  bronze  bell  to  the  temple.  What  Howard  wanted, 
Howard  was  going  to  get.  He  hoped.  The  saga  of  him  and  me 
was  going  to  be  one  hell  of  a  long  running  serial. 



met  Seymour  Nebenzal  one  night  in  1946 
when  I  was  dancing  at  the  Mocambo  Club. 
Dim  lights  and  soft  music.  Smoke^in  the  air 
and  smart-looking  people.  My  companion  was  Frances  Heflin, 
Van  Heflin's  wife,  a  gorgeous  redheaded  Texan  with  a  beautiful 
body  and  what  they  call  a  great  lust  for  life.  Like  me,  she  loved 
late  nights,  clubs,  and  anyplace  you  could  dance.  Frances  would 
have  loved  to  be  in  movies  but  nobody  asked  her  and  she  didn't 

Seymour  Nebenzal  was  a  smart  German  producer  working  for 
United  Artists.  He  told  us  that  in  the  first  breath,  not  that  it  was 
any  big  deal.  Hell,  in  those  days  Hollywood  was  awash  with 
smart  European  film  men  who'd  escaped  from  Nazi  Europe  with 
the  hope  that  our  streets  were  paved  with  gold. 

Short,  dark,  and  intense,  albeit  a  bit  pudgy,  with  thick  horn- 
rimmed glasses  that  magnified  his  dark  eyes,  Nebenzal  was  a  con- 
vincing talker.  He  told  me  he'd  purchased  the  rights  to  a  best- 
selling  novel  called  Whistle  Stop  by  Maritta  Wolff.  Because  it 
dealt  with  prostitution,  not  to  mention  brother-sister  incest, 
Whistle  Stop  had  been  quite  a  hot  item  a  few  years  back,  even 
making  it  onto  a  list  the  Hays  office  kept  of  books  that  absolutely 
positively  could  not  be  filmed. 

But  Nebenzal  had  a  way  around  that.  He'd  keep  the  title,  and 
the  notoriety  that  went  with  it,  but  he'd  hired  a  man  named  Phi- 
lip Yordan  to  totally  rewrite  the  story  so  that  any  relation  be- 
tween it  and  the  original  book  was  purely  coincidental.  Mary,  the 



female  lead,  still  returns  to  a  small  Midwestern  town  after  two 
years  in  Chicago  swathed  in  mink,  but  the  furs  are  now  vaguely 
described  as  (ha-ha)  "presents"  and  the  lady  no  longer  has  a 

For  some  reason  I  could  never  figure  out,  Mary  is  in  love  with 
Kenny,  a  loutish  type  who  considers  drinking,  card  playing,  and 
womanizing  a  full-time  career,  and  is  eager  to  turn  him  into  an 
honest  character.  George  Raft,  who  no  one  had  ever  accused  of 
serious  acting,  was  to  play  Kenny  in  his  usual  cigar-store  Indian 
style,  and  Nebenzal  wanted  me  to  play  the  lady  with  the  shady 

In  truth,  Nebenzal  was  just  being  polite  in  talking  to  me  at  all. 
Or  maybe  he  wanted  to  do  his  own  personal  screen  test.  Because 
the  facts  were  that  MGM  told  me  what  roles  I  played  and  when 
and  where  I  played  them.  And  what  Nebenzal  didn't  tell  me  was 
that  he'd  already  sounded  out  Metro,  who,  not  surprisingly,  were 
not  unhappy  with  idea  of  renting  out  their  now  two-hundred- 
dollar-a-week  starlet  for  the  far  larger  lump  sum  of  five  thousand 

A  Frenchman,  Leonide  Moguy,  whose  command  of  English 
was  negligible,  directed  the  film.  He  was  a  dear  man  whom  I 
liked  very  much,  and  although  everybody  in  the  film  business 
rated  it  as  a  piece  of  rubbish — a  verdict  I  had  to  agree  with — I 
enjoyed  it  mainly  because  George  Raft,  great  actor  or  not,  was 
such  fun. 

I  had  seen  George  Raft,  with  his  lovely,  slinky  hair,  playing 
dark,  debonair,  and  dangerous  film  roles  since  I  was  about  eight 
years  old.  In  my  terms  he  had  now  matured  into  a  father  figure. 
In  George's  terms,  not  so.  He  was  my  lover  in  the  film,  and  natu- 
rally he  thought  it  would  be  a  good  idea  if  he  continued  that  role 
outside  the  studio.  I  think  George  was  always  teasing  a  bit,  too. 
We  went  dancing  on  a  couple  of  occasions — and  George  danced 
like  a  dream — and  though  there  was  always  a  small  wrestling 
match  when  he  dropped  me  off,  our  relationship  remained  stable, 

"Ava,  you're  a  grown  woman  now,  and  this  should  be  our 
great  romantic  love  affair." 

"George,  we're  in  your  front  seat,  not  on  the  set.  You  don't 
drink,  you  don't  smoke,  you're  a  serious  Catholic,  and  married! 
Plus  you're  old  enough  to  be  my  father!" 

"My  thoughts  aren't  very  fatherly." 



"You've  made  that  clear,  George,  but  all  I  can  say  Is  I  love 
dancing  with  you,  and  I  hope  you  take  me  dancing  again  very 

A  quick  peck  on  the  cheek,  and  as  I  was  a  very  agile  girl,  I  was 
out  of  the  car.  George  took  it  all  with  a  smile,  and  we  stayed 
wonderful,  laughing  friends.  Fve  read  all  that  stuff  in  the  papers 
about  how  George  was  supposed  to  be  fronting  for  a  Mafia  gang. 
I've  heard  that  sort  of  nonsense  about  a  lot  of  people  in  my  time. 
In  my  terms,  the  only  way  you  know  people  is  the  way  you  know 
them.  And  I  know  that  in  those  days,  George  was  one  of  the 
sweetest,  nicest  men  I've  ever  met.  And  he  made  Whistle  Stop 

Despite  its  numerous  shortcomings,  including  a  bogus  happy 
ending  that  one  critic  accurately  noted  was  "so  patently  phony 
and  out  of  keeping  with  the  melodrama  that  has  gone  before,  it 
probably  will  send  audiences  out  on  a  laugh,"  Whistle  Stop  was 
my  first  leading  role  and  as  such  finally  did  get  me  noticed.  After 
years  as  an  MGM  china  doll,  I  had  now  broken  the  mold  and, 
though  I  didn't  know  it,  I  was  about  to  form  a  new  one. 

The  postwar  boom  was  at  its  height  in  1946,  and  both  the 
movie  business  in  general  and  MGM  in  particular  marked  that  as 
the  most  profitable  year  in  their  entire  history.  Nobody  dreamed 
that  they'd  never  see  profits  like  that  again,  and  when  I  was 
loaned  out  again  later  that  year,  this  time  to  Universal  for  some- 
thing called  The  Killers,  I  didn't  dream  either  that  that  picture 
would  forever  change  my  career  in  movies. 

The  Killers  was  the  first  of  three  pictures  I  made  based  on  Er- 
nest Hemingway's  writings,  a  happy  situation  that  eventually  led 
to  Papa  and  I  becoming  good  chums.  He  always  considered  The 
Killers  the  best  of  all  the  many  films  his  work  inspired,  and  after 
Mark  Hellinger,  the  producer,  gave  him  a  print  of  his  own,  he'd 
invariably  pull  out  a  projector  and  show  it  to  guests  at  Finca 
Vigia,  his  place  in  Cuba.  Of  course,  he'd  usually  fall  asleep  after 
the  first  reel,  which  made  sense,  because  that  first  reel  was  the 
only  part  of  the  movie  that  was  really  taken  from  what  he  wrote. 

Like  The  Snows  of  Kilimanjaro  years  later,  The  Killers  came 
from  one  of  Papa's  short  stories.  It  was  a  very  short  story  about 
two  big  lugs.  Max  and  Al,  who  come  into  a  small-town 
lunchroom  and  announce  that  as  a  favor  to  a  friend  they're  going 
to  kill  a  Swede  named  Ole  Andreson  as  soon  as  he  comes  in  for 



dinner.  The  Swede  never  shows,  the  killers  leave,  and  Nick 
Adams  (Papa  as  a  boy)  goes  to  warn  the  Swede.  He,  however, 
says  he's  tired  of  running  and  refuses  to  leave  town.  End  of  story. 

Which  left  the  filmmakers  with  a  number  of  problems.  Even  if 
they  filmed  the  story  as  written,  which  they  pretty  much  did,  even 
using  a  lot  of  Papa's  dialogue  just  the  way  he  wrote  it,  they  still 
had  about  an  hour  and  a  half  of  screen  time  to  fill  and  a  lot  of 
problems  to  solve.  First  of  all,  they  had  to  get  the  Swede  killed, 
something  the  story  neglected  to  do,  and  then  they  had  to  figure 
out  the  reason  why  someone  had  wanted  him  killed,  the  reason 
why  he'd  refused  to  run,  and  a  way  for  the  audience  to  find  all 
those  reasons  out. 

The  screenwriters — Anthony  Veiller,  credited,  and  John  Hus- 
ton, uncredited — were  up  to  the  job.  They  created  the  role  of 
Riordan,  a  tough  insurance  investigator,  who  digs  into  the  mur- 
dered man's  past  and  uncovers  his  story,  which  the  audience  sees 
through  a  series  of  flashbacks.  Turns  out  that  the  Swede  was 
once  a  promising  boxer  until  he  caught  a  glimpse  of  a  swell-look- 
ing babe  named  Kitty  Collins  wearing  a  drop-dead  black  dress 
and  singing  "The  More  I  Know  of  Love,  the  Less  I  Know"  in  a 
husky,  inviting  voice. 

Intoxicated  by  Kitty's  beauty,  the  Swede  takes  a  rap  for  her, 
goes  to  prison  and,  still  smitten  when  he  comes  out,  joins  her  in  a 
gang  plotting  a  payroll  robbery.  Thinking  Kitty  loves  him,  he 
doublecrosses  the  gang,  but  Kitty  has  a  triplecross  up  her  sleeve. 
By  the  time  she  says,  "I'm  poison  to  myself  and  everyone  around 
me,"  there's  practically  no  one  left  alive  to  give  her  an  argument. 

Mark  Hellinger  had  cast  Edmond  O'Brien  as  Riordan,  and  for 
the  Swede  he  went  with  an  actor  who'd  never  been  on  screen 
before,  a  young  man  named  Burt  Lancaster.  And  having  seen 
Whistle  Stop,  he  wanted  me  to  play  the  deadly  Kitty.  I  was  very 
excited  at  the  opportunity.  I  liked  the  odd  but  interesting  twists 
of  Kitty's  character,  the  lack  of  emotional  security  she  felt  in  her 
early  years,  and  the  way  this  contributed  to  what  she  turned  into 
later.  But  there  was  a  problem.  Hellinger's  deal  was  with  Univer- 
sal, and  it  looked  for  a  while  that  Metro  would  refuse  to  lend  me 
out  for  the  picture. 

Which  quite  frankly  surprised  me,  because,  given  Mr.  Mayer's 
idea  that  it  was  family-oriented,  happily-ever-after  Lassie  and 
Andy  Hardy  movies  that  attracted  customers  to  the  box  office, 



the  studio's  interest  in  my  movie  career  had  been  minimal.  And, 
sure  enough,  once  enough  money  had  been  waved  in  Metro's 
face,  I  got  the  job. 

I  liked  Mark  Hellinger  at  once,  because  I  could  tell  he  saw  me 
as  an  actress,  not  a  sexpot.  He  trusted  me  from  the  beginning  and 
I  trusted  him.  He  even  talked  me  into  relaxing  enough  so  I  could 
sing  that  sensual  song  in  my  own  voice.  And  he  gave  me  a  feeling 
of  responsibility  about  being  a  movie  star  that  I'd  never  for  a 
moment  felt  before.  Until  I  played  Kitty  Collins,  I'd  never  worked 
very  hard  in  pictures,  never  taken  my  career  very  seriously.  I  felt 
no  burning  ambition  to  become  a  real  actress.  I  was  just  a  girl 
who  was  lucky  enough  to  have  a  job  in  pictures.  Playing  Kitty 
changed  that,  showed  me  what  it  meant  to  try  to  act,  and  made 
me  feel  that  I  might  have  a  little  talent  in  that  area  after  all. 

Director  Robert  Siodmak  was  equally  helpful,  but  in  a  dif- 
ferent way.  A  German-born  director  who  was  giving  Alfred 
Hitchcock  a  run  for  his  money  with  suspenseful  films  like 
Phantom  Lady  and  The  Spiral  Staircase,  he  was  an  expert  at  this 
kind  of  dark  drama,  filling  the  screen  with  deep,  troubling  shad- 
ows and  knowing  just  how  he  wanted  me  to  look. 

One  day  early  in  the  filming,  I  saw  him  and  his  cameraman 
looking  at  me  very  carefully.  "What  is  that  stuff  all  over  your 
face,  please?"  he  said  in  his  typically  fractured  English. 

"Regulation  MGM  makeup." 

'This  is  not  MGM.  Will  you  please  go  away  and  wash  it  all 
off,  please." 

I  did  as  I  was  told,  and  quite  happily,  in  fact.  My  regulation 
face  was  gone  for  good. 

Siodmak  also  helped  me  with  my  toughest  scene,  the  one  at  the 
end  of  the  movie  where  I  scream,  "Tell  them  1  don't  know  any- 
thing. Save  me,"  over  and  over  again  to  my  dying  partner  in 
crime.  Siodmak  made  me  play  that  scene  so  many  times  that  I 
truly  became  hysterical  and  gave  a  more  convincing  performance 
than  I  thought  I  had  in  me. 

One  thing  I  especially  liked  about  filming  The  Killers  was  that 
Burt  and  Eddie  and  the  rest  of  us  were  in  the  early  stages  of  our 
careers,  fresh  kids  enjoying  life.  Burt  had  all  the  confidence  in  the 
world.  He'd  never  been  in  a  movie  before,  but  he  seemed  compe- 
tent enough  to  take  the  whole  thing  over,  and  if  Robert  hadn't 
been  such  a  strong  director,  he  might  have. 



The  publicity  department  set  up  a  few  beach  scenes  as  gim- 
micks to  promote  the  movie,  and  I'll  never  forget  giving  Burt 
piggybacks  on  my  back  instead  of  the  other  way  around.  But  he 
was  such  a  marvelous  athlete  he  seemed  able  to  make  himself 
pounds  lighter.  Or  maybe  it  was  all  those  screams  of  laughter 
that  made  everything  seem  so  easy.  All  I  know  is  that  whenever  I 
hear  the  "dum-de-dum-dum"  Dragnet  theme,  which  was  origi- 
nally part  of  the  score  Miklos  Rosza  wrote  for  The  Killers,  it's 
those  moments  I  remember. 

Although  some  critics  sniffed  and  one  called  The  Killers 
"merely  sensational,  designed  for  no  other  purpose  than  to  jangle 
emotions  and  nerves,"  most  of  the  reviews  were  excellent,  and 
for  the  first  time  in  my  life,  I  got  some  especially  good  notices  as 
well.  A  lot  of  people  have  told  me  through  the  years  that  it  was 
The  Killers  that  set  me  on  the  road  to  stardom,  that  defined  my 
image  as  the  slinky  sexpot  in  the  low-cut  dress,  leaning  against  a 
piano  and  setting  the  world  on  fire.  Maybe  it  did,  maybe  it 
didn't,  but  at  the  time  it  was  all  happening,  I  couldn't  have  cared 
less.  And  the  reason  was  simple:  I'd  fallen  in  love. 



va,"  Frances  Heflin  said  in  her  quiet, 
dreamy  way,  "this  is  Artie  Shaw.  He's 
just  come  back  from  the  war.  You've 
heard  of  Artie  and  his  music.  I  thought  you  two  might  get 

I  caught  the  edge  of  mischief  in  her  smile.  I  guessed  that  she 
and  Artie  had  had  a  little  flirt  going,  but  what  the  hell — that  was 
in  the  past.  And  here  was  Artie,  grinning  down  at  me.  Oh,  my 
God,  I  thought,  what  a  beautiful  man!  Artie  was  handsome, 
bronzed,  very  sure  of  himself,  and  he  never  stopped  talking.  It 
was  a  way  of  life  with  him.  Artie  could  go  on  about  every  subject 
in  the  world,  and  for  that  matter,  a  few  that  were  outside  it  as 
well.  But  he  was  full  of  such  warmth  and  charm  that  I  fell  in  love 
with  him,  just  like  that.  That's  the  way  it  always  is  with  me, 
immediate  or  never. 

I  suppose  Artie  was  the  first  intelligent,  intellectual  male  I'd 
ever  met,  and  he  bowled  me  over.  He  was  born  in  New  York  in 
1910,  the  child  of  immigrants,  and  grew  up  in  the  city's  crowded 
tenements  without  the  benefit  of  much  formal  education.  He 
didn't  have  much  money  either,  but  he  did  have  a  compelling 
determination  to  succeed,  not  only  as  a  musician  but  as  an  intel- 
ligent, creative,  pugnacious  human  being.  In  every  area  of  knowl- 
edge, Artie  was  thoroughly — and  relentlessly — self-educated. 

As  a  musician,  Artie  was  a  genius,  brilliant  at  everything  he 
touched — playing,  composing,  conducting.  He  was  always  exper- 
imenting, always  looking  at  new  forms  of  musical  expression.  At 



age  fifteen,  he  was  a  professional.  Ten  years  later,  at  a  New  York 
swing  concert,  he  was  playing  one  of  his  own  compositions  ac- 
companied by  a  string  quartet,  the  first  time  that  had  been  done 
in  jazz.  By  1937,  he'd  formed  his  own  big  band,  and  in  1938  he 
became  internationally  famous  with  his  version  of  Cole  Porter's 
"Begin  the  Beguine."  And  though  it  sounds  almost  unbelievable, 
he  was  the  first  jazz  orchestra  leader  to  include  black  musicians 
and  black  vocalists  (including  Billie  Holiday)  in  his  band. 

I'd  grown  up  in  the  big-band  era,  adoring  every  sound  the 
great  ones  made,  but  Artie,  strangely  enough,  never  seemed  to 
care  very  much  for  his  own  profession.  He  was  always  giving  it 
up  to  spend  months  in  Mexico  or  go  into  "retreat"  somewhere. 
But  when  he  was  on  the  job  he  was  a  great  organizer  and  disci- 
plinarian. No  musician  in  his  band  could  arrive  late,  or  half- 
pissed,  or  smoking  pot.  They  had  to  play,  and  play  right.  His 
recording  sessions  were  absolute  perfection,  and  they  had  to  be. 
In  those  days  of  78s,  there  was  no  way  of  splitting  notes  and 
doing  all  the  funny  things  they  do  now  with  tape.  It  had  to  be 
three  minutes  of  perfection:  piano,  percussion,  violins,  trumpets, 
saxes,  trombones,  clarinets — and,  oh,  God,  Artie  was  such  an 
artist  on  a  clarinet. 

Anyhow,  Artie  and  I  started  going  out  from  that  very  first 
night  of  our  meeting.  Not  occasionally.  Every  night.  I  remember 
that  first  time  he  took  me  to  Lucy's,  a  little  Italian  restaurant 
across  from  RKO  studios.  Small,  intimate,  piped  in  music,  can- 
dlelight, and  wine,  that  sort  of  place.  I  was  in  a  great  glow  about 
the  whole  thing,  and  Artie  looked  across  at  me,  and  said,  "Ava,  I 
think  that  physically,  emotionally,  and  mentally  you  are  the  most 
perfect  woman  I've  ever  met."  His  eyes  never  moved  from  mine 
as  he  went  on,  "And  what's  more,  I'd  marry  you  tonight,  except 
for  the  fact  that  I've  married  too  many  wives  already." 

I  mean,  I  do  love  the  man,  but  that  moment  was  pure  Artie. 
He  didn't  dream  of  saying,  or  implying,  that  he  was  asking  me  to 
marry  him.  Artie  took  it  for  granted  that  everyone  was  panting  to 
marry  Artie  Shaw.  And  I  guess  that  set  the  tone  of  our  scenario 
from  then  onward.  We  spent  our  first  eight  months  or  so  dining, 
dancing,  and  talking  our  heads  off.  No  funny  business.  Hands 
off.  Then  we  decided  that  if  we  were  going  to  have  an  affair  we'd 
better  make  it  a  real  one,  so  I  moved  to  Artie's  huge  mock-Tudor 
house  on  Bedford  Drive  in  Beverly  Hills.  He  had  very  good  taste, 



and  had  filled  it  with  expensive  Chippendale  and  Sheraton  fur- 
niture. He'd  never  gotten  around  to  furnishing  the  dining  room, 
though:  his  last  divorce  had  cropped  up  just  as  he  was  thinking 
about  it. 

I  adored  my  time  with  Artie  before  we  got  married.  We  trav- 
eled all  over  California  and  went  to  Chicago  and  New  York,  with 
Artie's  band  playing  one-night  stands  while  I  sat  backstage,  sip- 
ping bourbon,  listening  to  the  music,  and  having  a  ball.  It  was 
during  this  period,  however,  that  Artie's  penchant  for  self-im- 
provement— mine,  not  his — first  surfaced  and  nearly  frightened 
me  to  death. 

"Avala,"  he  said  one  day,  tacking  his  usual  endearing  Yiddish 
tag  onto  my  name,  "I  want  you  to  sing  with  the  band."  Now  I've 
already  described  how  my  heart  was  half-broken  at  age  sixteen 
by  that  band  leader  who  I  never  heard  from  again.  This  should 
have  been  my  great  opportunity  for  triumph  and  revenge.  But  I 
didn't  see  it  that  way.  I  was  just  too  frightened. 

"No  need  for  that,"  Artie  said,  confident  as  ever.  "Well  re- 
hearse as  long  as  you  want.  I'll  get  you  a  singing  coach,  and  a 
backup  group  that's  so  good  nobody  will  even  hear  you.  Your 
voice  is  good,  you  can  learn,  and  you'll  look  absolutely  gorgeous, 
the  most  beautiful  songbird  in  the  business." 

"Artie,"  I  said,  putting  my  foot  down,  "you're  wrong.  I'll 
make  mistakes  because  I'm  scared."  And  I  absolutely  refused  to 
go  on  with  it.  Which  was  a  pity.  It  would  have  been  the  thrill  of 
my  life,  but  I  just  could  not  do  it. 

Artie  and  I  were  married  on  October  17,  1945,  he  for  the  third 
time,  me  for  the  second.  Frances  Heflin,  of  course,  was  my 
bridesmaid  and  Art  Craft,  one  of  Artie's  oldest  friends,  was  the 
best  man.  I  wore  a  blue  tailored  suit  and  a  corsage  of  orchids,  not 
that  different  from  the  outfit  I  wore  when  I'd  married  Mickey  not 
so  long  before. 

Artie  and  I  honeymooned  at  Lake  Tahoe  for  a  week.  We  had 
terrible  fights  but  also  a  lot  of  romance.  Because  one  thing  is 
certain:  Artie  and  I  never  had  any  quarrels  in  bed.  If  only  every- 
thing else  about  the  marriage  had  been  as  wonderful  and  easy  as 

Marriage,  if  anything,  increased  Artie's  determination  to  im- 
prove me,  something  he  had  been  set  on  doing  from  the  first  mo- 
ment we  met.  I  didn't  mind  at  first,  but  unfortunately  Artie  had 



no  intention  of  being  subtle  about  the  business.  He  had  gotten  his 
education  the  hard  way  and,  worse  luck  for  me,  he  thought  the 
hard  way  was  the  only  one  worth  pursuing. 

The  world  Artie  introduced  me  to,  the  world  of  music,  art, 
books,  politics,  and  psychology,  was  more  than  a  bit  beyond  my 
experience,  and  unfortunately  it  showed.  I'll  never  forget  the  time 
I  was  sitting  at  his  knee  on  the  floor,  a  position,  I  might  add, 
Artie  thought  all  women  should  adopt.  "You  know,  Ava,"  he 
said  to  me  in  a  quiet,  considerate  voice,  "I  don't  think  I  would 
ever  have  fallen  in  love  with  you  if  you  weren't  so  beautiful" 
Though  he  had  the  good  sense  not  to  add,  "Too  bad  I  didn't 
know  you  were  just  a  dumb  broad,"  that  implication  was  clear  to 
me,  and  it  wasn't  the  sort  of  remark  guaranteed  to  instill  con- 
fidence in  a  young  lady. 

If  I  could  ever  be  born  again,  an  education  is  what  Pd  want. 
My  life  would  have  been  so  different  if  I'd  had  one.  You  don't 
know  what  it's  like  to  be  as  young  as  I  was  then  and  know  you're 
uneducated,  to  be  afraid  to  talk  to  people  because  you're  afraid 
even  the  questions  you  ask  will  be  stupid.  My  shame  at  my  igno- 
rance had  even  caused  me  to  lie  to  Artie  about  my  age  when  we 
first  met.  I  thought  if  I  shaved  a  year  off,  it  would  make  it  easier 
for  him  to  accept  me  as  I  was. 

When  Artie  and  I  began  going  together,  Gone  With  the  Wind 
was  still  the  only  book  I'd  ever  read.  Artie  vowed  to  change  all 
that,  deluging  me  with  works  by  Sinclair  Lewis,  Dostoyevsky, 
Thomas  Mann.  I  read  them  all,  or  tried  to.  I'll  never  forget  The 
Magic  Mountain;  I  thought  I'd  never  finish  that  damn  book. 
Once,  when  we  were  in  Chicago,  Forever  Amber  had  just  come 
out,  so  I  bought  a  copy.  He  saw  me  with  it  and  said,  "If  I'm  in 
charge  of  your  education,  you're  not  going  to  read  rubbish  like 
that,"  and  threw  it  across  the  room. 

Artie  had  been  released  early  from  the  navy  after  an  illness  in 
which  exhaustion  from  a  tour  through  the  Pacific  theater  had 
combined  with  depression  with  devastating  results.  Psycho- 
analysis had  helped  him  enormously,  so  much  so  that  when  I 
listened  to  Artie's  soliloquies  on  the  subject,  he  practically  con- 
vinced me  that  he'd  invented  the  damn  system  himself.  Under- 
standing himself,  self-exploration,  was  the  basic  drive  in  Artie's 
life,  and  he  seemed  to  live  only  for  his  sessions  with  May  Romm, 
his  analyst.  In  fact,  Freud's  The  Interpretation  of  Dreams  was  the 



first  book  he  ever  gave  me — pretty  tough  going  for  the  average 
Atlantic  Christian  College  student. 

May  Romm  struck  me  only  as  a  rather  skinny  old  lady,  but 
since  she  was  high  on  Artie's  list  of  priorities,  I  made  her  high  on 
mine.  We  even  went  to  one  of  her  Christmas  parties,  which  was 
filled  almost  entirely  with  psychiatrists,  which  I  thought  rather 
strange  given  that  Freud  had  said  that  doctors  and  patients 
shouldn't  mix  socially.  I  felt  about  as  much  at  home  at  that  party 
as  a  chicken  at  a  fox  convention.  Artie  was  immediately  off 
somewhere  else  holding  the  floor  on  some  minor  topic  that 
would  revolutionize  the  solar  system,  so  I  crept  into  a  corner  and 
got  into  conversation  with  a  nice  little  man  who  seemed  to  be 
able  to  put  up  with  me. 

He  was  quietly  dressed,  a  studious  sort  of  character,  looking 
more  like  a  stockbroker.  But,  naturally,  he  was  a  psychiatrist, 
and,  naturally,  if  I  was  to  get  even  remotely  into  a  discussion 
with  him,  the  only  thing  I  could  discuss  was  my  own  symptoms. 

"You  know,"  I  said,  "ever  since  I  was  a  child,  when  I  am  faced 
with  any  sort  of  emotional  problem  I  seem  to  get  this  sort  of 
stomach  cramp." 

Now  I  know  that  this  is  not  your  standard  cocktail  party  chat- 
ter. But  my  new  conversationalist  brightened  immediately. 

"Really,"  he  said.  "What  sort  of  childhood  did  you  have?" 

I  gave  him  a  short  sharp  fifty  seconds  on  life  in  the  tobacco 
fields.  It  didn't  sound  half  good  enough  to  me.  No  brutal  father. 
No  black  dreams.  No  screams  in  the  night.  I  thought  he'd  say, 
"How  interesting,"  and  go  in  search  of  another  dry  martini.  But 
he  didn't.  He  looked  thoughtful  and  said,  "Perhaps  you'd  better 
come  and  see  me  in  my  professional  capacity."  His  office  was  on 
Bedford  Drive,  only  a  short  distance  from  where  we  lived.  I  said  I 
would  make  an  appointment,  and  I  did.  What  the  good  doctor 
didn't  know  was  that  I  had  my  own  secret  and  special  reason  for 
making  that  appointment,  something  I'd  been  considering  for 
quite  a  long  time,  certainly  ever  since  I  met  Artie. 

In  the  quiet,  reassuring  confines  of  his  office,  I  took  a  deep 
breath  and  said,  "Doctor,  I  think  I  should  have  an  IQ  test." 

There  was  a  long  pause  and  he  said,  "You  don't  need  an  IQ 

I  didn't  pause.  I  said,  "Oh,  yes,  I  do." 

He  said,  "You  are  so  sure  now  that  things  aren't  quite  right 
that  you  will  without  a  doubt  unconsciously  score  a  low  mark." 



1  said,  "Doctor,  I  would  like  a  test." 

He  said,  "I  don't  think  it's  a  wise  idea." 

I  thought:  He's  got  the  same  doubts  that  I  do;  and  I  repeated, 
"Doctor,  I  would  like  a  test." 

So,  finally,  he  set  up  an  appointment  with  another  doctor  who 
did  this  sort  of  thing.  It  took  a  hell  of  a  long  time,  hours,  because 
once  I  got  started  I  had  to  have  every  damn  test  known  to  man. 

I  was  summoned  to  his  consulting  room  for  the  big  news. 

"Well,"  he  began.  "You  have  an  extremely  high  IQ."  And  then 
he  went  on  to  explain  that  I  had  never  really  used,  stretched,  or 
extended  the  brain  that  God,  plus  Mama,  Papa  and  a  healthy 
upbringing,  had  endowed  me  with.  I  had  never  needed  to  use  the 
millions  of  brain  cells  that  most  human  beings  normally  possess, 
quite  a  common  occurrence.  That  not  only  reassured  me;  it  gave 
me  a  certain  impetus. 

So  now  I  was  into  analysis  and  I  found  it  a  great  help.  I  still 
do.  When  I  get  depressed  or  into  a  situation  that  is  difficult,  I  can 
reason  myself  out  of  it,  make  sense  of  it,  know  what  the  hell's 
going  on  in  my  life  at  a  particular  juncture.  I  can  get  through  a 
depression,  not  fall  into  it  and  never  come  out. 

With  the  confidence  of  that  IQ  test  behind  me,  I  decided  to  do 
something  about  Artie's  constant  carping  about  my  lack  of  edu- 
cation: I  looked  into  taking  classes  at  my  local  institution  of 
higher  learning,  UCLA. 

I  had  to  be  careful  about  this.  Enrolling  and  physically  attend- 
ing classes  might  have  put  a  strain  on  Metro's  publicity  implica- 
tions that  all  its  starlets  were  ladies  of  the  highest  intelligence  and 
accomplishments.  So  I  took  extension  courses  at  home,  signing 
up  for  English  literature  and  economics. 

Artie  grunted  noncommittally,  but  I  really  studied  and  did 
well.  I  can  still  remember  showing  my  report  card  to  everyone  on 
the  set  of  The  Killers  and  bragging  about  my  B-pluses.  The  com- 
pany didn't  know  whether  to  laugh  or  cry.  I  guess  most  people 
making  pictures  are  more  satisfied  with  their  level  of  education, 
no  matter  what  it  is,  than  I  was. 

And  then,  of  course,  there  was  chess.  Artie  liked  the  game,  and 
one  day  he  said  to  me,  "Avala,  why  don't  you  learn  to  play 
chess?  We  could  have  a  game  occasionally." 

I  said  I'd  be  happy  to  try,  and  he  offered  to  find  someone  to 
give  me  lessons.  But  Artie,  being  Artie,  didn't  arrange  for  any  old 
teacher;  he  got  hold  of  a  Russian  grandmaster  to  introduce  me  to 



the  game.  Stepan  Vronsky  was,  I  guess,  in  his  sixties,  with  thick 
gray  hair  and  blue  eyes.  He'd  come  to  the  house  three  or  four 
times  a  week,  we'd  sit  together  at  a  little  chessboard  in  the  living 
room  and  he'd  show  me  what  it  was  all  about.  After  I  learned  the 
basics,  we'd  play  games  together,  and  he'd  show  me  all  kinds  of 
moves  and  countermoves.  Sometimes  he'd  throw  in  a  trick  move 
to  see  if  I  could  block  it,  and  then  explain  how  I  should  have 
counterattacked.  Vronsky  chuckled  a  lot,  and  seemed  to  enjoy 
the  process. 

Finally  the  day  came  when  Artie  casually  asked,  "How  about  a 

"Of  course,  Artie,"  I  replied. 

We  sat  down  at  the  little  table.  We  played  for  perhaps  fifteen 
or  twenty  minutes.  We  exchanged  several  pieces.  Then,  very 
quietly,  I  said,  "Checkmate."  I'd  won. 

Artie  never  played  chess  with  me  again. 

Now  I  can  look  back  and  understand  that  I  was  not  Artie's 
wife  in  any  real  sense  of  the  word,  only  one  of  his  pretty  posses- 
sions. I  was  charming  as  a  girlfriend,  but  as  a  wife  I  became  a 
hindrance.  Artie's  natural  tendency  to  be  impatient  and  irascible 
was  intensified  where  I  was  concerned,  and  the  increasingly  hos- 
tile way  he  put  me  down  both  at  home  and  at  parties  wore  my 
nerves  to  shreds. 

If  I  was  quiet  when  friends  were  around  he  would  say,  "Why 
don't  you  say  something?  Don't  you  have  anything  to  add  to  the 
conversation?"  And  if  I  did  open  my  mouth  he'd  just  say,  "Shut 
up."  His  open  contempt  in  front  of  our  friends  was  particularly 
painful.  He  disregarded  my  smallest  wish  and  humiliated  me 
every  chance  he  got,  until  I  was  barely  able  to  hold  back  my 
tears.  I  worshiped  the  man,  but  that  period  was  one  of  the  worst 
I  ever  endured. 

It  all  came  to  a  head  very  late  one  night.  Artie  and  I  had  been 
drinking  old-fashioneds  made  with  Wild  Turkey  bourbon,  a 
fairly  potent  drink.  He  began  needling  me  and  I  just  couldn't  take 
it  anymore;  I  was  at  the  point  of  hysteria.  So  I  ran  out  of  the 
house,  leapt  into  the  car,  and  headed  off  into  the  night. 

I  went  out  of  our  driveway  peeling  rubber  so  loudly  that  any 
cop  could  have  heard  it  a  mile  away.  And,  sure  enough,  I  was 
spotted  by  a  police  patrol  before  I'd  covered  three  hundred  yards. 
That  didn't  bother  me  in  the  slightest,  because  I  knew  where  I 



was  going,  and  I  knew  no  one  was  going  to  stop  me.  I  was  going 
to  the  Van  Heflins',  where  I  knew  I  would  be  sane  and  safe  and 
to  hell  with  the  cops. 

It  wasn't  a  reasonable  way  of  thinking,  but  then  I  wasn't  in  a 
reasonable  mood. 

So  there  I  was  cutting  corners  and  weaving  across  roads  in  that 
expensive  neighborhood,  engine  roaring,  police  car  on  my  tail, 
lights  flashing  and  siren  screaming,  like  a  maniac  from  one  of 
Hollywood's  early  thrillers.  I  was  gonna  reach  the  Van  Heflins' 
or  die  in  the  attempt — which  didn't  seem  that  unlikely. 

I  screeched  to  a  halt  outside  the  house.  I  grabbed  the  door 
handle  to  make  my  escape,  but  I  wasn't  quick  enough.  Two 
young  cops,  each  with  a  big  revolver  in  his  hand,  appeared  on 
either  side.  One  pushed  the  barrel  within  four  inches  of  my  head 
and  growled,  "Now  where  d'you  think  you're  going  in  such  a 
hurry?"  Which  was  reasonable,  because  I  must  have  been  a  drug 
addict  or  a  lunatic  as  far  as  he  was  concerned.  And  I  went  on 
behaving  like  one. 

I  pushed  the  gun  barrel  aside  as  if  I  were  flicking  away  a  fly, 
and  snapped,  "How  dare  you!"  Which  was  a  silly  thing  to  do 
because  he  might  have  blown  my  head  off,  but  maybe  he  was 
young  and  romantic.  I  pushed  past  him  and  made  a  rush  for 
Heflins'  door,  with  the  other  cop  yelling,  "Hey,  Miss,  you've  got 
to  walk  a  straight  line,"  but  he  was  too  late.  Van  must  have 
heard  the  noise  of  my  arrival  because  he  opened  the  door,  and  I 
was  through  it  and  slamming  it  shut  behind  me  before  he  could 
utter  a  sound. 

"God,"  I  gasped,  "the  police  are  after  me  outside!"  It  was  al- 
most morning  by  now,  Van  was  fully  dressed  and  I  saw  he  was 
drinking  that  awful  stuff  that  I  hate — Fernet  Branca — which  is 
suppose  to  cure  hangovers.  I  must  say  he  reacted  like  a  champ. 
He  shoved  the  full  glass  into  my  hand  and  said,  "For  Christ's 
sake,  drink  that."  As  it  went  down  he  popped  a  sweet-tasting  pill 
into  my  mouth,  grinned,  and  said,  "Now,  let's  go  outside  and 
face  them." 

The  two  young  cops  hadn't  even  had  time  to  knock,  but  they 
were  still  there,  looking  very  grim-faced. 

I'm  sure  it  was  Van  who  spoke  first,  saying  something  like, 
"Why,  officers,  I'm  sure  we  can  work  this  thing  out.  My  young 
friend  here  was  just  in  a  hurry  to  pay  us  a  visit." 



The  two  young  cops  were  certainly  aware  of  that;  they  must 
have  had  at  least  a  dozen  traffic  violations  to  bring  me  in  on,  not 
to  mention  "resisting  arrest"  and  interfering  with  an  officer  in  the 
line  of  duty — which  could  have  been  shooting  me!  But  one 
thought  was  uppermost  in  their  minds:  I  was  drunk.  In  those 
days  there  were  no  breathalyzers;  you  walked  a  straight  line.  I 
really  don't  know  why  they  just  didn't  handcuff  me  and  take  me 
straight  to  jail  But  they  didn't.  They  just  went  on  looking  grim 
and  saying,  "Now,  Miss,  will  you  please  walk  a  straight  line." 

"Of  course,"  I  said,  and  I  hope  I  gave  them  a  sweet  smile. 

One  thing  about  me,  and  it's  been  a  gift  straight  from  heaven, 
or  maybe  it's  from  the  other  place,  is  that  no  matter  how  drunk  I 
get,  I  never  stumble,  never  weave,  and  I  never  slur  my  speech, 
qualities  I  put  down  to  a  good  Irish-Scottish  capacity  to  hold 
strong  drink.  This  time,  however,  with  the  dawn  breaking  and 
the  Fernet  Branca  in  my  stomach,  I  was  as  sober  as  one  of  the 
little  birds  chirping  in  the  palm  fronds.  And  I  guarantee  I  walked 
the  straightest  line  possible,  far  better  than  the  two  cops  could 
have  done.  And  by  this  time  I  wasn't  very  nice  to  them  either, 
accusing  them  of  "frightening  me  to  death  and  making  me  go 
faster  than  usual  with  all  those  lights  flashing  and  sirens  sound- 
ing. I  could  have  had  a  heart  attack." 

I  think  Van  was  more  placatory,  whispering  things  about 

"  "young  actress,  naturally  highly  strung,  having  trouble  with  her 

husband,  confused  at  this  time  in  the  morning,  certainly  never 

touches  alcohol — ever.  No  harm  done,  is  there,  officer?  .  .  . 

grateful  for  your  cooperation." 

The  young  officers  were  still  grim-faced  but  they  touched  their 
hats  and  drove  off.  I  went  in  and  had  a  large  something  with 
Van,  who  abandoned  Fernet  Branca  for  the  real  thing  and  lis- 
tened in  fatherly  fashion  to  my  hesitant  confession  about  life  with 

I  should  have  had  my  first  clue  that  Artie  was  thinking  about 
ending  our  marriage  when  he  suddenly  decided  he  would  sell  the 
palatial  Bedford  Drive  house  and  move  us  to  a  much  inferior 
place  in  the  San  Fernando  Valley.  The  thought  of  having  to  di- 
vide the  property  between  us,  as  California  law  mandated,  must 
have  sent  cold  shivers  down  his  back.  I  didn't  like  the  house  in 
the  Valley;  I  thought  it  was  cheap  and  ratty.  I  was  so  upset  with 
all  of  this  that  I  couldn't  eat;  I  was  just  skin  and  bones;  so  I 



decided  to  literally  save  my  life  as  well  as  my  peace  of  mind  by 
finding  somewhere  else  to  live. 

I  moved  in  with  Minna  Wallis,  sister  of  Hal  Wallis,  the  pro- 
ducer, and  I  was  living  there  when  I  got  a  call  from  Artie.  He  said 
he  was  in  his  office  in  Beverly  Hills  and  asked  if  I  could  come 
over  as  he  had  something  important  to  tell  me.  Chivalry  was  not 
in  Artie's  makeup,  and  the  thought  that  it  might  have  been  more 
gentlemanly  for  him  to  come  to  me  did  not  cross  his  mind.  But  to 
hell  with  all  that.  I  was  thrilled  by  the  message.  Maybe  this  was 
the  beginning  of  a  reconciliation.  Because  in  spite  of  all  the  trou- 
bles and  traumas,  I  still  loved  Artie  dearly.  Maybe  we  could 
make  it  all  work  again. 

So  I  dressed  up  real  pretty,  and  went  across  to  his  office  and 
sat  down  in  a  chair  that,  naturally,  Artie  did  not  pull  out  for  me. 
And  I  waited  while  he  smiled  and  looked  across  at  me  with  his 
dark  eyes  and  did  not  even  think  of  saying  how  nice  I  looked.  He 
just  quietly  went  about  knocking  the  bottom  out  of  my  world 
when  he  said,  "Would  you  object  if  I  went  off  to  Mexico  and  got 
a  quick  divorce?" 

There  were  all  my  hopes  piled  on  the  floor,  as  I  heard  my  voice 
coming  out  my  mouth  saying. 

"Sure  .  .  .  fine." 

So  that  was  it.  He  got  our  divorce  for  us,  and  married,  of  all 
people,  Kathleen  Winsor,  the  woman  who'd  written  Forever  Am- 
her.  I  paid  for  my  California  divorce  and  asked  for  nothing  in 
settlement.  We'd  been  married  for  one  year  and  one  week. 

One  thing  I  will  say,  given  all  the  problems  we  ended  up  hav- 
ing, was  thank  God  we  didn't  have  a  child  as  I'd  wanted  to.  But  I 
have  to  admit  I  still  have  thoughts  about  that,  because  I  know  we 
could  have  produced  a  fabulous  baby. 

Still  and  all,  Artie  was  one  of  the  deep  hurts  of  my  life.  I  was 
so  much  in  love  with  the  man,  I  adored  and  worshiped  him,  and  I 
don't  think  he  ever  really  understood  the  damage  he  did  by  put- 
ting me  down  all  the  time.  On  the  other  hand,  Artie  was  not  the 
apologizing  kind.  To  him  I  was  sort  of  a  pretty  little  pupil  who 
was  just  hanging  around.  I  was  never  an  equal,  I  was  never  given 
the  dignity  of  being  a  wife.  Just  like  with  Mickey,  our  interests 
were  poles  apart.  I  thought  at  the  time  that  love  could  cure  any- 
thing. I  found  out  the  hard  way  that  it  can't.  You  have  to  have 
more  in  common  than  mad  love  for  a  marriage  to  work. 



Yet  Artie  and  I  remained  close  for  years,  and  I  can't  say  any- 
thing against  him.  He  taught  me  to  study,  to  think,  to  read. 
Thanks  to  Artie,  I  read  Death  in  the  Afternoon,  which  meant  I 
had  a  little  something  to  talk  to  Hemingway  about,  not  to  men- 
tion having  a  leg  up  on  the  bullfighters  who  entered  my  life.  Of 
my  three  husbands,  I  had  the  most  admiration  for  Artie.  He's 
impossible  to  live  with,  sometimes  even  to  be  friends  with,  but  he 
is  a  worthwhile  human  being,  an  extraordinary  man. 

I  remember,  for  instance,  a  night  in  1944. 1  was  with  Artie  and 
his  band  for  a  one-night  stand  in  San  Diego.  The  audience  was 
packed  in  and  waiting  but,  for  some  reason,  Roy  Eldridge,  Artie's 
marvelous  black  trumpet  player,  didn't  show  up. 

Artie  was  furious,  so  much  so  that  he  was  still  steaming  when 
we  went  out  the  stage  door  after  the  first  set  to  enjoy  a  cigarette. 
And  there  was  Roy  Eldridge,  sitting  in  the  gutter,  holding  his 
trumpet  and  crying,  the  tears  pouring  down  his  cheeks.  He 
hadn't  been  allowed  in  the  building.  He'd  been  told:  "A  nigger 
playing  in  a  white  man's  band?  Don't  give  us  that  crap.  Get  out 
of  here,  nigger,  if  you  know  what's  good  for  you." 

Artie  was  often  testy.  This  time  he  was  not  testy,  he  was  vol- 
canic with  anger.  The  result:  Roy  Eldridge  was  allowed  into  the 

At  that  next  set,  Roy  Eldridge  blew  his  horn  until  the  notes 
shimmered  off  the  rooftops.  He  played  a  tune  called  "Little 
Jazz" — maybe  Artie  wrote  it.  In  those  days,  when  the  kids  really 
liked  a  number,  they  stopped  dancing  and  clustered  around  the 
bandstand.  This  time  they  hemmed  it  in  to  listen  to  Roy's  fan- 
tastic rendering.  I'll  never  forget  that  occasion.  Roy  stood  there 
blowing  his  heart  out,  tears  streaming  down  his  face.  It  was 
heartbreaking.  I  wept  with  him. 

Dear  Artie.  Wherever  you  are  I  wish  you  well,  and  thanks  for 
all  the  memories  and  the  guidance.  And  I'll  make  one  little  wager 
to  myself.  I  bet  you're  still  in  analysis  up  to  your  eyebrows. 



was  twenty-four  years  old.  It  is  not  an  age 
when  you  pause  to  take  a  long  and  careful 
look  at  yourself.  There  are  too  many  other 
things  going  on.  But  in  passing  I  did  do  a  little  check. 

I  had  now  been  through  two  marriages,  each  of  which,  in 
terms  of  actual  time  elapsed,  had  lasted  barely  more  than  a 

I  had  left  Mickey.  Artie  Shaw  had  discarded  me.  I  was  working 
hard,  MGM  saw  to  that.  I  was  dating  quite  a  few  men  but  jump- 
ing into  bed  with  none  of  them.  I  was  not  drinking  seriously — 
just  a  few  in  the  evening.  But  I  guess  as  a  twice-divorced  starlet, 
there  were  a  few  predators  around. 

That's  how  I  first  met  John  Huston.  I  knew  John's  name  be- 
cause The  Killers  had  been  adapted  from  Hemingway's  short 
story  by  John  along  with  Anthony  Veiller.  I'd  also  become  friends 
with  Jules  Buck,  the  film's  assistant  producer,  and  his  wife  Joyce. 
They  knew  John  well  and  they  said  to  me,  "Poor  John.  He's  sit- 
ting around  alone  and  miserable  in  that  big  house  out  there  in  the 
San  Fernando  Valley.  Let's  go  and  have  drinks  and  dinner  with 
him.  He'd  love  that." 

Lonely  and  miserable  my  eye! 

But  as  soon  as  I  met  John  I  liked  what  I  saw.  He  was  tall,  thin, 
and  gangly.  He  had  a  long  Irish  face,  a  quick  smile,  a  soft  voice, 
and  a  line  of  talk  that  could  charm  cows  in  from  the  pasture  or 
ducks  off  the  pond.  No  doubt  at  all  where  his  ancestors  came 



John's  place  was  about  an  hour's  drive  from  Beverly  Hills. 
Quite  lonely.  A  big  ranch-style  house  on  huge  grounds  with  a 
swimming  pool  into  which  you  could  dive  from  a  board  fixed  on 
a  veranda  about  twelve  feet  above.  We  had  a  swim  and  drinks 
around  the  pool;  then  we  had  a  marvelous  dinner  and  more 
drinks,  and  then  we  went  on  drinking  because  John  was  more 
than  a  great  boozer,  he  was  in  the  world  heavyweight  cham- 
pionship class  of  boozers.  And  you've  got  to  remember  that  the 
standard  greeting  of  this  period,  from  the  end  of  the  Second 
World  War  to  well  into  the  fifties,  was  "Let's  have  a  drink."  No 
one  talked  about  anything  as  tacky  as  alcoholism.  Booze  was  the 
essential  part  of  the  social  scene. 

During  this  drinking  session,  John  said,  "Tell  you  what,  fellas, 
what  about  if  I  try  and  hypnotize  you  lovely  people?  One  at  a 
time — okay?" 

What  no  one  knew  at  the  time  was  that  naughty  John  knew  an 
awful  lot  about  hypnotism.  At  the  end  of  the  war  he'd  been  as- 
signed by  the  army  to  make  a  documentary  called  Let  There  Be 
Light  in  some  hospital  on  the  East  Coast.  Through  it  passed  hun- 
dreds of  ex-soldiers  still  suffering  from  traumatic  breakdowns 
due  to  their  combat  experiences.  The  doctors,  psychiatrists,  psy- 
chologist, and  therapists  found  hypnosis  a  very  useful  aid.  John 
filmed  it  all,  and  in  the  process  he  learned  a  lot  about  that 
unique,  complex,  and  unusual  remedial  aid.  He  said,  "What 
about  you,  Jules,  for  a  start?  Gentleman  first?" 

They  were  old  friends.  Army  friends.  They'd  been  together  in  a 
photographic  unit  in  the  Pacific  war  zone,  and  seen  a  lot  of  ac- 
tion. But  Jules  didn't  know  what  John  had  learned  in  that  hospi- 
tal on  the  East  Coast. 

"Okay,"  he  said,  fortified  by  dry  martinis,  wine,  and  a  lot  of 
cognac.  "How  are  you  going  to  start?  Shine  a  light  in  my  eyes,  or 
wave  a  watch  on  a  chain  .  .  ." 

"No  film  tricks.  No  rituals — those  are  for  charlatans.  You 
are  not  under  the  power  of  the  hypnotist.  You  cannot  be  forced 
to  do  things  against  your  will,  The  power  of  hypnosis  lies  in 
the  interpersonal  cooperation  between  the  patient  and  the  hyp- 

It  was  all  slightly  chilling.  Jules  was  apparently  an  easy  subject. 
John  took  him  back  to  those  days  in  the  Pacific,  the  cries  of 
wounded  men  in  battle,  the  piles  of  casualties,  the  dead.  Jules 



remembered  it  with  clarity  and  related  it  all  in  a  state  close  to 
hysteria,  his  mind  unburdening  itself  of  those  memories.  It  was 
then  I  realized  that  John  had  a  bit  of  a  cruel  streak  in  him,  for  he 
seemed  to  enjoying  his  mastery  over  Jules. 

He  looked  at  me  and  smiled.  "Your  turn?" 

"You  won't  put  me  under.  I'll  resist." 

John  grinned  and  said,  "Ava,  darlin',  it's  not  a  contest.  It's 
supposed  to  be  a  collaboration  between  hypnotist  and  hypno- 

His  voice  was  tranquillizing  and  relaxing.  But  I  was  not  going 
to  reveal  myself  as  Jules  had  been  revealed. 

John  smiled  happily  and  said,  "Ava,  love,  let's  all  have  another 

(I  thought  Fd  won.  But,  given  how  splendidly  we  got  along 
through  the  years,  I'm  not  sure.  I  strongly  suspect  that  that  crafty 
young  man  had  hypnotized  me  after  all.) 

It  was  now  getting  very  late — about  two  or  three  in  the 
morning — and  Jules  and  Joyce  said,  "It's  too  late  to  drive  home 
now,  and  John's  got  plenty  of  spare  bedrooms.  You  can  put  us 
up  for  the  night,  can't  you,  John?  We'll  all  drive  home  in  the 

"Sure,"  says  John.  "Take  your  choice." 

So  Jules  and  Joyce  settled  for  a  double  room,  and  I  took  a 
smaller  room  some  distance  away.  I  had  just  removed  my  shoes 
and  was  thinking  of  undressing  when — without  word  or  knock 
or  even  a  gentle  tap — the  door  opened  and  John  was  standing 
there  beaming  at  me.  The  situation  was  obvious  to  any  lady  over 
the  age  of  seventeen.  John  was  about  to  make  a  pass.  But  I  was 
just  as  fast  on  my  feet  as  he  was.  And  as  John  approached,  a 
quick  twist  and  sidestep  put  me  through  the  door  and  down  the 
stairs  heading  for  the  open  countryside.  Fm  barefoot,  as  usual,  so 
he  would  have  to  run  pretty  fast  to  catch  me.  And  by  God,  he 
really  was  after  me!  And  just  as  fast  and  just  as  fit  as  I  was!  At 
top  speed  I  circled  the  pool  and  headed  out  through  the  bushes, 
then  started  to  zigzag  between  the  trees,  then  came  back  again 
and  headed  off  on  a  second  circuit.  And  then,  as  we  headed  back 
toward  the  pool,  I  realized  I  had  only  one  chance  of  a  ladylike 
escape.  From  the  first  floor  of  the  house  that  diving  board 
stretched  out  over  the  pool.  If  I  could  take  a  header  off  that,  John 
would  have  to  realize  that  I  was  a  very  reluctant  seductee.  And  a 



very  wet  one,  too!  I  raced  up  the  stairs,  swung  along  the  balcony, 
out  to  the  board,  and  splosh— down  I  went,  fully  clothed  and 
head  first,  into  the  pool. 

Soaked  to  the  skin,  I  scrambled  out  looking  like  a  drowned 
something,  with  John  roaring  with  laughter.  But  I  was  furious.  I 
was  not  talking  to  him.  I  was  getting  Jules  and  Joyce  out  of  their 
bed  and  into  their  car  and  we  were  going  home — now!  I  think 
John  had  gone  back  to  the  bar  to  freshen  his  drink.  At  any  rate 
he  was  standing  on  the  veranda  holding  it  and  waving  us  an  alco- 
holic good-bye  as  we  drove  into  the  sunrise — I  must  have  seen 
more  sunrises  than  any  other  actress  in  the  history  of  Holly- 
wood— with  Joyce  still  murmuring,  "Poor  John.  He  really  is  very 
lonely,  you  know." 

Lonely  my  ass!  Within  twenty-four  hours  all  the  Los  Angeles 
papers  carried  the  story  of  how  John  Huston  had  just  rushed  off 
to  marry  the  actress  Evelyn  Keyes  (who  was  later  to  become  Artie 
Shaw's  eighth  wife).  I  guess  chasing  me  was  just  his  way  of  keep- 
ing in  training. 

I'd  decided  after  the  breakup  with  Artie  to  leave  Bappie  and 
Charlie  Guest  to  their  privacy  and  move  into  my  own  small 
apartment  on  Olympic  Boulevard.  And  I  had  acquired  a  new 
friend.  Mearene  Jordan  (everyone  called  her  Reenie)  was  sup- 
posed to  be  my  maid,  but  she  was  also  as  good  a  friend  as  I've 
ever  had.  She  was  petite  and  pretty,  with  an  infectious  laugh  and 
a  wonderful  ability  to  cope  with  all  of  life's  storms.  We  hit  it  off 
from  the  start  and  we've  spent  more  years  as  close  companions 
than  I  care  to  think  about. 

After  my  successes  with  both  Whistle  Stop  and  The  Killers, 
Metro  finally  woke  up  to  the  fact  that  there  might  be  something 
to  be  gained  from  my  emerging  as  a  sexy  nightclub  girl  and  cast 
me  opposite  Clark  Gable  as  Jean  Ogilvie,  a  (what  else  but)  sultry 
singer,  in  The  Hucksters.  Having  been  in  love  with  the  man  since 
I  was  that  little  girl  in  North  Carolina,  I  was  thrilled,  and  the 
icing  on  the  cake  was  that  Clark,  who'd  pushed  for  me  for  the 
part,  actually  came  to  our  modest  apartment  to  talk  to  me,  a 
little  nobody,  about  the  role.  But  that  was  Clark:  down-to-earth, 
informal,  liking  people,  helping  them,  and  all  done  with  style.  He 
was  very  sweet,  and  very  big  and  masculine  with  lots  of  person- 
ality. You  can  say  he  wasn't  the  greatest  of  actors,  but  my  God, 
he  was  more  than  that.  He  was  a  star. 



Clark  didn't  really  have  to  encourage  me  to  play  Jean  Ogilvie. 
MGM  had  already  marked  me  for  it  and  MGM  owned  me  body 
and  soul.  I  had  to  get  permission  from  Mr.  Louis  B.  Mayer  for 
everything  I  did;  sometimes  I  felt  I  might  have  to  get  permission 
to  go  to  the  bathroom.  And  since  The  Hucksters  was  a  project 
the  studio  was  strongly  committed  to,  even  if  I'd  hated  the  idea  I 
would  have  had  to  go  along. 

The  Hucksters  started  life  as  a  novel  by  Frederic  Wakeman.  A 
scathing  attack  on  radio  advertising,  a  kind  of  pretelevision 
Network,  it  spent  nearly  a  year  on  the  top  of  the  national  best- 
seller list,  fully  justifying  the  two  hundred  thousand  dollars 
Metro  paid  for  it  in  a  prepublication  sale.  When  Gable  read  the 
novel,  he  called  it  "filthy  and  not  entertaining,"  but  the  studio 
cleaned  up  the  sex  for  the  screenplay,  making  his  lady  love 
(played  by  Deborah  Kerr  in  her  American  debut)  a  war  widow 
instead  of  an  unfaithful  wife.  As  for  my  character,  she  was  an  old 
flame  of  Clark's,  sort  of  a  bad  smell  if  you  know  what  I  mean.  I 
did  have  an  amusing  scene,  however,  when  my  search  for  roman- 
tic mood  music  for  a  home-cooked  dinner  with  Clark  was  con- 
stantly interrupted  by  the  blare  of  mindless  commercials.  Sounds 
familiar,  doesn't  it? 

The  man  who  must  have  had  the  most  fun  in  the  picture,  how- 
ever, was  Sydney  Greenstreet.  He  played  Evan  Llewellyn  Evans, 
the  tyrannical  manufacturer  of  Beautee  Soap  (a  character  appar- 
ently based  on  George  Washington  Hill,  the  Lucky  Strike  king) 
who  wants  his  product  to  get  attention  and  doesn't  care  how  it's 
done.  "Repetition"  is  what  he  insists  on  in  one  of  his  juicy 
tirades.  "By  repetition,  by  God,  I  mean  until  the  public  is  so  irri- 
tated with  it,  they'll  buy  your  brand  because  they  bloody  well 
can't  forget  it." 

Sydney,  however,  didn't  get  involved  in  love  scenes  with  Mr. 
Gable.  And  sometimes,  I  have  to  admit,  kissing  Clark  with 
twenty-five  people  looking  on  was  not  the  answer  to  a  school- 
girl's dream.  Not  to  mention  that  I'd  have  to  be  thinking  about 
whether  my  lipstick  would  smear,  how  long  to  hold  the  kiss 
to  conform  to  the  Hays  office  guidelines,  how  I  should  act  when 
I  came  out  of  the  clutch,  whether  I  was  holding  my  head  right 
for  the  camera,  as  well  as  trying  to  remember  my  dialogue.  But, 
in  truth,  there  were  those  other  times,  when  I  would  be  playing 
a  scene  with  Clark,  in  his  arms,  perhaps,  and  suddenly  the 



thought  would  hit  me,  This  is  Clark  Gable.  This  is  Clark 

And  my  mind  would  be  completely  blown.  Every  line,  every 
word,  every  little  nuance  suggested  by  director  Jack  Conway, 
it  would  all  go  right  out  of  my  head.  But  in  some  magical 
Gable  way  Clark  would  understand  that,  bless  him.  He'd  lean  in 
a  bit,  all  those  crow's  feet  at  the  corners  of  his  eyes  crinkling, 
his  face  beaming,  and  he'd  whisper,  "Hey,  kid,  where  are  we? 
You  stuck?  Let  me  give  you  a  lead."  He  was  always  trying  to 
calm  me  down,  always  telling  me,  "You  don't  see  yourself  as  an 
actress  and  I  don't  see  myself  as  an  actor.  That  makes  us  even." 

This  was  a  big  movie  for  Clark  in  more  ways  than  one.  Not 
only  was  he  in  every  scene  but  one,  which  meant  he  had  to  be 
on  the  set  every  day,  but  it  was  also  his  first  film  in  eighteen 
months,  a  long  break  for  MGM's  king,  which  meant  our  set  was 
a  mecca  for  a  horde  of  visitors,  everyone  from  Henry  Ford  II  and 
Sinclair  Lewis  to  the  president  of  the  Canadian  National  Rail- 
ways. But  when  it  came  to  doing  the  right  thing,  Clark  was  never 
too  busy. 

Take,  for  instance,  the  nightclub  scene  where  I  stand  at  the 
piano  and  croon  my  love  song,  "Don't  Tell  Me."  Even  though 
the  version  the  audience  was  going  to  hear  had  already  been  pre- 
recorded by  someone  else,  to  make  the  scene  work  I  had  to  sing 
my  heart  out  and  pretend  it  was  the  real  thing. 

Unfortunately,  when  the  time  came  to  film  this  sequence,  it 
was  past  five  o'clock.  All  the  stars  had  gone  home,  as  well  as  all 
the  extras  who'd  previously  filled  the  nightclub  tables.  And 
Clark,  I  knew,  walked  off  the  set  every  day  promptly  at  five. 
Boom! — he  was  gone. 

So  there  I  was,  standing  in  an  empty  nightclub  with  a  full  or- 
chestra behind  me,  wearing  a  slinky  black  dress  and  trying  to  be 
the  hottest  torch  singer  in  the  business,  but  with  absolutely  no 
one  to  sing  to  except  some  prop  man.  If  there's  anything  more 
depressing  than  attempting  to  sing  to  an  empty  cabaret  room,  I 
don't  know  what  it  is. 

Then,  just  as  we  were  ready  to  start,  I  saw  this  handsome  man 
carrying  an  old  wooden  kitchen  chair  onto  the  dance  floor.  He 
placed  the  chair  right  in  front  of  me,  reversed  it  and  sat  down 
with  his  arms  folded  across  the  back.  It  was  Clark  Gable,  grin- 
ning at  me  to  begin. 



For  God's  sake,  how  could  I  help  but  adore  the  man?  There 
was  never  anything  between  us — ever.  He'd  lost  his  heart,  and 
almost  the  sense  in  his  life,  when  Carole  Lombard  was  killed  in 
that  plane  crash.  I  never  met  Carole,  but  Clark  told  me  that  at 
times  her  language  had  the  same — shall  I  say — forthrightness  as 
mine.  And  she  loved  playing  practical  jokes,  though  her  last  one 
proved  unexpectedly  tragic.  I  had  dinner  with  Clark  occasionally 
during  that  time,  and  he  told  me  the  whole  story. 

As  she  set  out  on  her  war  bond  tour,  Carole  decided  to  leave  a 
little  surprise  behind  for  Clark.  So  with  the  help  of  the  studio 
makeup  and  costume  departments,  as  well  as  a  convenient  tai- 
lor's dummy,  she  smuggled  an  exact  replica  of  herself  into  their 
bedroom.  Carole  never  came  back  to  that  bedroom,  but  Clark 
did,  beside  himself  with  grief  when  he  heard  of  her  death.  Can 
you  imagine  his  shock  when  he  thought  he  saw  Carole  in  their 
bed?  That  first  agonized  moment  almost  destroyed  him.  Poor 
Carole's  joke  had  misfired. 

When  The  Hucksters  finally  came  out,  I  received  some  of  the 
best  notices  of  my  career,  with  Newsweek  insisting  that  "Ava 
Gardner  walks  off  with  a  good  portion  of  the  footage."  And 
Esquire,  claiming  I'd  been  "tough  enough  to  be  'Miss  Pig  Iron  of 
1946'  in  The  Killers,"  noted  that  in  this  picture  I  was  "refined 
enough  to  be  'Miss  Stainless  Steel  of  1947.'"  Furthermore,  my 
performance  seemed  "so  serene  and  worldly-wise  that  it  is  hard 
to  recall  her  as  a  wife  of  Mickey  Rooney.  But  maybe  that's  one  of 
the  quickest  ways  to  get  worldly  wisdom."  I  wasn't  about  to  ar- 
gue with  that. 

In  that  period  of  my  life,  however,  both  men  in  my  life  were 
named  Howard:  Howard  Hughes  and  Howard  Duff.  But  the  dif- 
ference between  them  was  immeasurable,  and  the  difference  in 
my  relationship  with  each  of  was  equally  immense.  Hughes,  nat- 
urally, was  on  the  phone  to  me  the  minute  he  knew  that  Artie 
and  I  were  splitting  up.  With  his  very  own  security  and  spy  sys- 
tem, he  knew  about  it  practically  before  I  did.  But  that  was 
Howard  for  you:  he  could  be  cruel  and  ruthless,  although  with 
me  he  was  always  gentle  and  concerned.  His  objective  by  now 
was  clearly  marriage,  and  on  a  couple  of  occasions  I  gave  that 
offer  a  lot  of  careful  thought.  But  I  never  loved  Howard  Hughes, 
and  after  two  failed  marriages,  I  wasn't  going  to  try  again  until  I 
was  sure. 

The  other  Howard  was  young,  handsome,  and  athletic,  with  a 



wonderful  rich  voice  which  he  put  to  good  use  in  his  films  and  on 
radio.  And  as  one  of  my  girlfriends  said  about  him,  "Howard 
Duff's  the  kind  of  guy  you  could  take  home  to  mother  and  she 
would  adore  him  and  say  how  lucky  her  daughter  was." 

I  met  Howard  in  Hollywood,  at  a  party  or  a  nightclub,  I  can't 
remember  which,  and  we  hit  it  off  at  once.  He  was  warm  and 
generous,  fun  to  be  with,  and  it  wasn't  long  before  we  were  shar- 
ing the  same  bed.  Not  on  a  regular  basis,  but  often  enough.  I 
didn't  find  out  until  much  later  that  Yvonne  De  Carlo,  a  lovely 
girl,  was  his  steady  date  at  the  time. 

To  tell  the  truth,  though  Howard  said  he  was  infatuated  with 
me,  there  were  things  about  me  that  drove  him  around  the  bend. 
Changing  my  mind  every  ten  minutes,  going  one  place  and  imme- 
diately deciding  I  wanted  to  be  somewhere  else,  that  was  not  his 
style.  We  were  both  night  people,  but  Howard  was  very  profes- 
sional, and  we  went  to  bed  early  and  not  together  when  we  had 
to  work  the  next  morning.  The  idea  of  marriage?  It  came  up 
mainly  from  Howard.  I  loved  him,  but  not  deeply  enough  to  start 
down  that  route.  Let's  have  fun,  I  said.  And  we  sure  did. 

MGM,  trying  to  capitalize  on  whatever  fame  I  had,  used  to 
send  me  off  on  publicity  trips  to  various  parts  of  the  country.  I 
would  be  taken  to  the  local  radio  station,  where  in  addition  to 
the  broadcast  there  would  be  reporters  and  photographers  ready 
to  spread  the  gospel  of  the  studio's  future  attractions.  Howard 
Duff  came  with  me  on  several  of  these  trips,  including  a  particu- 
larly memorable  one  to  San  Francisco,  where  I'd  been  inter- 
viewed on  radio  by  someone  known  locally  as  "the  Walter 
Winchell  of  San  Francisco." 

He  took  Howard  and  me  to  dinner  at  a  superb  restaurant,  and 
the  conversation  got  around  to  the  good — or  bad — old  days  of 
San  Francisco,  when  the  gold  miners  and  the  sailors  from  the 
three-masted  ships  hit  what  was  known  as  the  Barbary  Coast, 
storming  ashore  looking  for — hmm — well,  looking. 

Immediately  I  wanted  to  know  where  all  the  fun  was  today. 
What  about  showing  me  some  of  it?  Here  I  was  with  Howard  as 
my  escort,  ready  and  willing  to  swing  the  night  away.  Get 
movin',  fellas! 

The  local  Walter  Winchell  cocked  a  knowing  eye  and  said, 
"Well,  there  are  some  interesting  places  still  around." 

I  said,  "Let's  go." 



The  local  Winchell  said,  "Well,  we  could  start  off  at  undoubt- 
edly the  classiest  bordello  on  the  West  Coast." 

I  had  some  idea  what  a  bordello  was,  and  I  felt  it  was  about 
time  my  education  was  improved,  so  I  spoke  right  up  and  said, 
"Let's  give  it  a  try." 

Who  could  refuse  an  offer  like  that?  We  all  piled  into  a  taxi 
and  headed  up  toward  Nob  Hill,  which  everyone  knew  was  one 
of  the  posh  areas  of  the  city.  Our  leader  explained  that  the  house 
in  question  had  once  belonged  to  a  famous  actress  of  the  twenties 
whose  hobby  had  been  to  relax  in  her  enormous  marble  bath 
filled  with  warm  milk. 

The  house  was  very  imposing.  Nothing  garish  or  cheap  about 
the  heavy  stone  facade,  and  nothing  to  reveal  that  it  concealed  a 
brothel.  The  doorman  was  in  livery,  and  wore  a  top  hat.  His 
eyebrows  didn't  move  as  he  plainly  recognized  our  local  guide, 
and  he  opened  the  stout  oak  door  leading  onto  a  long  corridor. 
The  carpet  was  as  deep  and  soft  as  a  well-kept  lawn,  the  mirrors 
and  antique  furnishings  were  exquisite.  But  the  most  astonishing 
thing  about  the  place  was  that  a  series  of  corridors  separated  by 
heavy  doors  ran  on  like  a  maze.  Each  door  was  attended  by  a 
granite-faced  flunky  dressed  in  brilliant  livery  which  would  have 
been  envied  by  any  royal  court  in  Europe,  and  was  opened  only 
by  a  special  knock  that  passed  you  through  to  the  next  section. 

Finally  we  reached  the  main  salon.  The  door  opened  into  one 
of  the  most  beautiful  rooms  I  have  ever  seen:  a  huge  marble  fire- 
place and  a  roaring  fire,  fine  wallpaper,  carpets,  furniture,  and 
mirrors — oh,  lots  of  mirrors. 

And  the  madam — well,  you  could  hardly  call  her  that,  she  was 
so  elegant  and  welcoming,  as  if  she  were  meeting  her  country- 
house  guests  for  an  intimate  weekend.  She  was  beautifully 
gowned,  her  coiffeured  hair  just  touched  with  gray.  Her  voice 
was  upper-class  English,  and  she  took  such  a  fancy  to  me  that  I 
thought  she  might  be  trying  to  recruit  me  as  one  of  her  flock. 
And  she  knew  my  name. 

"Ah,  Miss  Gardner,"  she  said  as  she  steered  me  across  to  a 
high-backed  chair,  "I  want  you  to  sit  in  this  particular  chair  so 
that  you  may  see  everything  that  is  happening.  ..." 

I  did  a  slight  inward  cough  as  I  realized  I  had  been  placed 
opposite  a  see-through  mirror.  Now  what  was  I  going  to  see? 

Slightly  relieved,  I  saw  that  the  only  view  was  of  a  beautiful 



well-stocked  bar  with  a  handsome  barman,  and  nobody  else  in 
sight.  I  realized  that  at  a  ritzy  joint  like  this  there  would  be  no 
goings-on  on  the  carpet. 

Meanwhile  the  housemother  was  filling  me  in  on  the  details, 
"My  girls  are  all  dressed  by  Dior/'  she  whispered,  and  I  won- 
dered if  Mr.  Dior  knew  he  had  been  quite  so  privileged.  I  also 
wondered  with  all  this  total  security  how  a  gentleman  and  his 
lady  managed  to  get  into  each  other's  clutches.  Plainly  things  had 
altered  from  the  old  gold-rush  days  when  the  guy  marched  in, 
hitting  the  spittoon  and  yelling,  "Now  where's  my  harpy  for  the 

The  housemother  was  also  whispering,  "In  my  house  no  two 
gentlemen  are  ever  allowed  to  meet  each  other;  you  could 
imagine  the  complications  that  might  cause."  I  really  couldn't, 
but  my  attention  was  now  occupied  by  the  beautiful  young 
woman — gowned  magnificently,  as  advertised,  by  Dior — who 
swayed  into  the  bar  without  a  trace  of  indelicacy.  She  stood  there 
looking  like  a  million  dollars  and  I  was  wondering  why  Mr.  L.  B. 
Mayer  hadn't  got  her  under  contract  when  an  equally  elegant 
gentleman  joined  her.  The  housemother  smiled  at  me  to  show 
that  I  would  understand  that  the  preliminaries  were  now  starting. 
He  shook  hands  politely.  They  both  sat  down.  The  barman 
poured  champagne  from  an  expensive-looking  bottle.  It  was  also 
plain  that  the  conversation  was  polite,  without  any  of  those  old 
gold-rush  realities  of:  "For  Christ's  sake — twenty  dollars!  You 
must  think  I've  hit  the  mother  lode!" 

The  housemother  went  on  whispering,  "You  see,  when  the 
gentleman  takes  his  leave  he  goes  out  through  another  exit  so 
that  no  one  ever  sees  him  come  in  or  leave  this  building." 

"Would  you  like  to  see  the  marble  bath  and  the  rest  of  the 
house?"  she  asked.  And  off  we  went  on  another  little  tour.  The 
bath  was  impressive:  a  huge  white  marble  piece  with  downward 
flowing  steps.  It  was  now  empty,  so  I  knew  that  nothing  very 
interesting  went  on  there.  I  gave  the  housemother  another  one  of 
my  inquiring  looks,  which  made  her  say,  "Oh,  I  expect  you'd  like 
to  see  the  rooms  where  the  girls,  er — " 

I  smiled  back  encouragingly,  and  off  we  went  down  another 

And  there  the  dream  ended. 

A  room  not  much  larger  than  a  cubicle.  No  bathroom,  just  a 



basin  in  one  corner.  I've  seen  better  rooms  in  second-class  motels. 
And  the  bed  ...  for  God's  sake,  one  would  have  expected  a  huge 
four-poster  with  creamy  sheets  and  lush  bedspreads.  What  did 
they  get?  A  low,  king-size  square  covered  with  a  red  drape.  So 
this  was  where  lust  was  satisfied.  If  I'd  been  an  old-time  miner  I'd 
have  asked  for  my  gold  nugget  back. 



first  met  Ava  in  1948,  when  I  was  assigned  a 
dressing  room  right  across  from  hers  at 
Metro.  Sydney  Guillaroff  was  a  mutual 
friend  of  both  of  ours — he  would  do  our  hair  regularly  when  we 
were  working — and  he  said  to  me,  "She  really  needs  friends.  She 
has  men  friends,  but  she  doesn't  have  many  women  friends."  She 
was  too  beautiful;  she  was  considered  a  threat  by  the  so-called 
glamour  girls  at  Metro. 

Ava  was  not  working  at  the  time,  but  she  usually  preferred  to 
have  her  lunch  brought  into  her  dressing  room  because  she  was 
really  painfully  shy.  It  was  not  a  cover,  not  a  pretense — she  was 
timid,  she  was  afraid.  So  either  I'd  come  to  her  dressing  room  or 
she  would  come  to  mine.  She  told  me  she  was  very  nervous  about 
entering  a  room,  even  the  commissary.  "I  would  just  as  soon 
crawl  under  the  carpet  until  I  get  to  my  seat,"  she  said,  "because 
I  hate  to  have  people  look  at  me." 

"But,  Ava,  this  is  crazy,"  I  said.  "You  are  just  fantastic-look- 
ing. What  happens  when  you're  on  the  screen?" 

"When  I'm  on  the  screen,  Fm  playing  a  role,  I'm  playing  a 
part,"  she  said.  "I  am  somebody  else.  I'm  not  me." 

Yet  she  never  thought  of  herself  as  a  good  actress;  she  just  did 
not  believe  in  herself.  Acting  for  her  was  like  a  child  playing  in 
the  garden  or  with  her  dolls.  It  was  make-believe.  It  didn't  have 
any  substance,  and  she  was  looking  for  substance  in  her  life.  Or 
someone  to  share  it  with  or  give  it  to  her. 

At  that  time,  I  was  also  writing  a  beauty  column  for  the  Chi- 



cago  Tribune/New  York  Daily  News  syndicate,  and  she  was  the 
very  first  person  I  wanted  to  interview.  "Ava,"  I  said,  "you  are,  if 
not  the  most,  one  of  the  most  beautiful  women  1  have  ever  seen 
in  my  life." 

"Oh,  come  on,  Arlene,"  she  said.  "You  don't  have  to  say  that 
to  make  me  feel  good.  Why  don't  you  interview  Elizabeth  Tay- 

I  said  1  was  determined  to  begin  with  her  and  added,  "If  you 
put  pate  de  foie  gras  under  your  eyes,  my  editor  is  going  to  love 


"No,  I  do  nothing  at  all,"  she  said.  "I  try  to  take  my  makeup 
off  when  I  come  home  from  the  studio.  Sometimes  I  succeed, 
sometimes  I  don't." 

Gee,  I  thought,  this  is  not  going  to  be  a  very  successful  column 
if  I  can't  come  up  with  anything.  But  Ava  didn't  have  to  wear 
makeup.  She  had  naturally  beautiful  skin,  and  great  color  to  her 
lips.  She  dressed  very  casually;  she  was  never  so  happy  as  when 
she  wore  slacks  and  a  blouse.  But  the  slacks  were  well  tailored, 
she  was  never  sloppy,  and  she  was  very  clean.  She  would  wash 
her  hands  at  least  three  times  during  lunch.  And  there  was  no  one 
who  could  touch  that  posture,  the  way  she  walked  and  presented 
herself.  She  was  a  sexy  woman  without  trying.  All  she  had  to  do 
was  walk  into  the  room. 

Metro  in  those  days  was  just  like  being  part  of  a  very  rich 
family;  you  had  everything  at  your  disposal.  If  you  went  from 
Stage  1  to  Stage  9,  you  didn't  walk,  you  took  the  limousine.  If 
you  had  to  go  to  the  dressing  room,  or  to  the  loo,  you  took  the 
limousine.  I  mean  you  never  walked  anywhere.  If  you  were  going 
out  to  a  premiere  or  something,  you  could  go  to  wardrobe  and 
take  any  clothes  that  would  fit  and  sign  them  out  for  the  evening. 
It  was  just  a  fascinating  life.  You  were  pampered  and  spoiled. 
Some  actresses  thought  they  deserved  it,  but  I  think  because  Ava 
had  been  poor,  she  didn't  know  how  long  it  was  going  to  last. 
She  thought:  One  day,  it's  not  going  to  be  this  way. 

And  L  B.  Mayer  was  the  emperor.  He'd  call  you  to  his  office 
either  before,  during,  or  after  you  were  cast  in  a  film,  and  he'd 
want  you  to  sit  on  his  lap  in  front  of  a  mirror  while  he  taught 
you  how  to  act.  It  was  really  the  Loretta  Young  School  of  Acting. 
We'd  complain  to  Lillian  Burns,  the  dramatic  coach,  and  she'd 
say,  "Well,  Uncle  Louie  is  Uncle  Louie.  Just  put  it  in  the  back  of 



your  mind  and  don't  pay  any  attention  to  it."  Ava  also  thought  it 
was  ridiculous,  but  she  played  that  game.  "You  know/5  she  said, 
"there  are  certain  games  in  life  you  have  to  play." 

One  thing  she  hated,  though,  was  PR.  She  thought  it  was 
phony  and  false,  and  she  was  against  anything  that  was  phony 
and  false.  Not  only  was  she  a  Capricorn,  an  earth  sign,  she  was 
really  down  to  earth  as  well.  But  she  did  what  she  had  to  do  in 
order  to  make  the  money  she  wanted  to  make,  and  in  order  to 
please  Mayer  and  the  powers  that  be.  She  would  kick  and  scream 
but  finally,  when  it  came  right  down  to  it,  she  did  it.  But  she  did 
it  with  taste. 

One  game  she  did  not  play  was  the  couch  game.  She  never  had 
to  and  she  never  did.  She  was  not  promiscuous,  she  was  true — 
true  blue.  When  she  was  married,  she  was  married.  She  didn't 
fool  around;  there  was  never  any  scandal  about  her.  She  was 
exactly  the  opposite  of  the  roles  she  played.  She  looked  like  a 
femme  fatale  and  she  wasn't.  She  was  really  sweet  and  dear  and 
lovely,  and,  at  the  time  that  I  knew  her,  she  wanted  a  baby,  a 
child,  more  than  anything  in  the  world. 

We  often  talked  about  the  kind  of  man  that  we'd  like  to  marry, 
that  would  make  us  happy.  "Oh,  God,"  she  said,  "the  thing  I 
dream  about  is  having  someone  really  love  me  for  myself,  for 
what's  inside  of  me,  and  not  who  I  am  on  the  screen  or  what  they 
think  I  am.  The  happiest  time  in  my  life  would  be  finding  the 
right  person  and  marrying  him." 

Ava  was  always  looking  for  a  father  figure,  I  think.  One  of  her 
favorite  songs,  something  she  used  to  hum  to  herself,  was  "I'm  a 
little  lamb  who's  lost  in  the  wood,  I  know  I  could  always  be 
good,  to  one  who'll  watch  over  me."  And  she  had  that  quality  of 
bringing  out  a  person's  protectiveness.  Men  would  like  to  protect 
her.  Sometimes  they  protected  her  too  much. 

Mickey  Rooney  was  a  protector  up  to  a  point.  He  was  cocky. 
Big  star.  Big  talent.  He  could  do  anything — he  could  sing,  he 
could  compose,  he  could  play  the  piano,  the  drums.  And  he  was 
a  fine  actor.  I  don't  think  there  was  anything  he  couldn't  do.  But 
he  was  cocky.  And  he  rubbed  people  the  wrong  way.  He  had  a 
wicked  sense  of  humor,  you  know.  He  could  take  you  down  with 
one  line. 

But  he  never  did  that  with  Ava.  He  was  very  protective.  In  a 
funny  way,  Mickey  also  had  an  inferiority  complex.  He  wasn't 



tall,  he  wasn't  handsome,  he  did  not  think  too  much  of  himself. 
So  they  had  a  lot  in  common,  these  two,  and  they  gravitated 
toward  each  other  because  of  that.  Together,  they  were  strong. 
And  she  never  complained  about  him.  I  mean,  he  was  boastful, 
he  was  this  and  he  was  that,  but  she'd  just  say,  "Well,  you  know 
Mickey."  And  he  was  always  a  good  friend  to  her. 

As  for  Howard  Hughes,  the  main  thing  that  threw  her  off,  and 
me,  too,  was  his  body  odor.  Howard  never  bathed,  he  never  used 
a  deodorant.  And  I'm  sure  he  never  cleaned  his  clothes.  They 
were  always  dirty,  and  he  never  bothered  to  change.  I  remember 
standing  next  to  him  at  Giro's  one  night,  and  I  smelled  him  be- 
fore I  knew  who  it  was.  I  turned  around  and  saw  his  shirt,  he  had 
dirt  on  his  collar  and  around  his  neck,  and  I  had  to  excuse  my- 

And  here  was  Ava,  washing  her  hands  three  times  during  the 
course  of  lunch,  very  insistent  on  cleanliness.  She  told  me 
Howard  was  besieging  her  with  calls  and  setting  up  traps  for  her, 
and  it  was  always  a  challenge  to  get  out  of  those  assignations. 
She  couldn't  get  past  the  body  odor,  and  neither  could  I.  We 
laughed  about  that. 

When  Ava's  marriages  to  Mickey  and  Artie  Shaw  didn't  work 
out,  she  said,  "You  know,  I  don't  trust  love  anymore.  It's  led  me 
astray.  If  a  man  knows  you  love  him,  then  he'll  take  advantage  of 
you  and  treat  you  badly."  But  part  of  her  still  believed  that  the 
greatest  day  of  her  life  would  be  when  she  could  leave  it  all  be- 
hind and  just  live  her  life  as  she  wanted  to  with  someone  that  she 
loved.  That  she  was  never  allowed  to  do  that  was  one  of  the 
great  tragedies  of  her  life.  And  the  fact  that  she  didn't  have  the 
children  that  she  really  wanted  was  a  tragedy  as  well.  She  was 
beautiful  and  famous  and  idolized  and  still  was  one  of  the  most 
unhappy  women.  She  was  an  unfulfilled  flower. 



ita  Hayworth  once  said  the  problem  with 
her  life  was  that  the  men  in  it  fell  in  love 
with  Gilda,  her  most  glamorous  role,  and 
woke  up  the  next  morning  with  her.  That's  a  sentiment  I  can 
fully  identify  with.  I've  always  felt  a  prisoner  of  my  image,  felt 
that  people  preferred  the  myths  and  didn't  want  to  hear  about 
the  real  me  at  all.  Because  I  was  promoted  as  a  sort  of  a  siren  and 
played  all  those  sexy  broads,  people  made  the  mistake  of  think- 
ing I  was  like  that  off  the  screen.  They  couldn't  have  been  more 
wrong.  Although  no  one  believes  it,  I  came  to  Hollywood  almost 
pathologically  shy,  a  country  girl  with  a  country  girl's  simple, 
ordinary  values. 

Hollywood,  however,  saw  a  lot  of  money  in  promoting  me  as 
a  goddess,  and  that  process  moved  into  high  gear  with  One 
Touch  of  Venus.  Here  I  played  literally  the  ancient  goddess  of 
love,  a  naturally  amorous  type  who  comes  to  earth  imprisoned  in 
a  statue  of  the  Anatolian  Venus  purchased  by  an  art-loving  de- 
partment store  owner.  But  when  "a  little  old  good-for-nothing 
window  trimmer"  named  Eddie  Hatch,  played  by  Robert  Walker, 
kisses  me  on  the  lips  in  a  fit  of  inebriated  passion,  I  climb  down 
off  the  pedestal  and  make  everyone's  life  a  comedic  hell  by  falling 
madly  in  love  with  him. 

Venus  started  as  a  stage  musical  written  by  S.  J.  Perelman  and 
Ogden  Nash,  with  music  by  the  great  Kurt  Weill,  but  only  two  of 
the  original  songs  made  it  into  the  film.  One  of  those,  "Speak 
Low,"  was  nominally  a  duet  between  me  and  Dick  Haymes,  who 


A  VA:    MY  STORY 

played  Eddie  Hatch's  best  pal.  But,  as  usual,  another  voice  was 
dubbed  in  instead  of  mine. 

Before  shooting  could  begin,  however,  a  statue  of  me  as  the 
Anatolian  Venus  had  to  be  created.  Sparing  no  expense.  Universal 
commissioned  sculptor  Joseph  Nicolosi  to  do  the  job.  And  that's 
where  the  crises  began.  Most  Venuses  I'd  seen  in  art  books  were 
nude  or  had  a  magically  clinging  drape  low  on  the  hips,  and  Mr. 
Nicolosi  clearly  had  the  same  idea.  Because  when  I  took  off  my 
clothes  behind  a  screen  and  appeared  modestly  clothed  in  a  two- 
piece  bathing  suit,  he  looked  at  me  rather  severely  and  gave  a 
sigh  that  could  have  been  heard  as  far  away  as  the  Acropolis. 

Nude?  Me?  Not  even  MGM  had  that  in  their  contract.  Bare 
my  breasts?  What  would  Mania  have  thought?  Jesus,  I  had  a 
hard  enough  time  with  two  husbands  and  one  boyfriend.  No  one 
darted  into  bed  faster  than  I  did.  I  had  a  fine  time  with  sex,  but 
the  thought  of  exposing  my  body  was  something  else  again.  I 
guess  my  mother's  puritanical  zeal  had  left  some  marks  on  me 
after  all.  Besides,  it  was  February,  and  cold,  and  the  sculptor's 
wife  had  to  supply  a  steady  stream  of  hot  drinks  just  to  keep  us 

The  artist,  however,  prevailed.  First  he  got  me  to  change  into  a 
more  shapely  bra,  because  the  suit  top  had  the  unfortunate  effect 
of  flattening  the  true  line.  But  that  didn't  stop  his  numerous  sighs 
and  hesitations,  and  after  several  more  hot  drinks,  I  knew  I'd 
have  to  make  the  supreme  sacrifice. 

"Would  you  like  the  bra  off?"  I  asked  cautiously. 

Nicolosi  smiled  and  nodded.  "Your  body  is  beautiful.  It  will 
make  all  the  difference."  And  do  you  know  what?  He  was  right. 
Immodest  as  it  may  sound,  I  have  to  say  that  the  final  statue 
looked  very  nice  indeed.  It  was  carted  off  to  the  studio,  with 
filming  scheduled  to  begin  in  little  more  than  a  week. 

Then  came  the  explosion.  A  nude  statue!  Who  said  anything 
about  nudity?  Tits!  Didn't  anyone  tell  you  that  tits  aren't  allowed 
in  a  Hollywood  film?  It  doesn't  matter  how  beautiful  they  are, 
it's  immoral  and  indecent.  Plus,  the  goddamn  statue  has  to  come 
to  life  on  screen.  Do  you  want  us  to  be  accused  of  corrupting  the 
whole  of  America? 

As  the  owner  of  the  offending  objects,  I  sat  back  and  did  not 
say  a  word.  After  all,  I'd  done  my  bit  for  the  arts.  But  the  poor 
sculptor,  who'd  poured  his  soul  into  this  clay,  was  shattered.  No 



one  had  told  him  they'd  wanted  a  Venus  dressed  up  like  Queen 
Victoria.  Finally,  another  statue  was  made,  this  one  with  me 
wearing  the  belted-at-the-waist  off-the-shoulder  gown  that  Orry 
Kelly  had  designed  for  Venus,  and  America's  morals  survived  to 
fight  another  day. 

One  Touch  of  Venus  ended  with  the  inevitable  Hollywood 
fadeout,  with  everyone  paired  up  with  just  the  perfect  person.  It's 
often  struck  me  as  sad  that  the  actors  and  actresses  involved  in 
these  fantasies  can't  arrange  the  same  kind  of  rapture  for  them- 
selves. Because  if  anyone  needed  or  deserved  a  happy  ending, 
poor  Bob  Walker  certainly  did. 

While  we  were  filming  Venus,  the  rumor-mongering  movie 
magazines  were  all  claiming  that  Bob  and  I  were  engaged  in  the 
inevitable  ecstatic  affair  that's  supposed  to  go  hand-in-hand  with 
moviemaking.  And,  I  admit,  sometimes  it  does.  But  not  this  time. 

Bob  Walker  had  been  married  to  the  beautiful  Jennifer  Jones. 
Whether  he  was  then  into  booze  to  the  point  of  being  an  alco- 
holic, I  don't  know.  He  sure  was  when  I  knew  him.  And  his 
agony  was  compounded  by  the  fact  that  Gone  With  the  Wind's 
David  O.  Selznick  was  also  intoxicated  with  Jennifer,  and  had 
pursued  her  as  only  a  determined  producer  can.  When  a  girl  is 
young  and  beautiful  and  an  ambitious  actress,  it's  very  hard  to 
resist  that  kind  of  attention. 

The  non-Hollywood  ending  to  this  story  was  that  Jennifer  di- 
vorced Bob,  David  divorced  his  wife  Irene,  and  the  two  of  them 
wed.  Irene  went  to  New  York  to  become  a  very  successful  stage 
producer,  and  only  Bob  was  left  to  grieve.  And  grieve.  And 

Poor  baby.  He  tired  so  hard  to  stay  off  the  drink.  He  actually 
lived  at  Universal,  in  his  dressing  room,  a  sort  of  bungalow,  with 
a  man  who  did  exercises  with  him  and  was  supposed  to  make 
sure  he  didn't  touch  the  stuff.  No  parties.  No  interruptions.  No 

It  worked  for  the  first  part  of  the  movie;  then  Bob's  cronies 
and  hangers-on  discovered  what  he  was  doing.  They  soon  found 
ways  of  sneaking  into  his  company  with  the  age-old  come-on: 
"One  little  drink  won't  do  us  any  harm." 

One  night  Bob  rang  me  up  and  asked  me  out  to  a  restaurant. 
But  by  the  time  we  had  finished  dinner,  and  Bob  had  finished 
drowning  his  sorrows,  he  was  in  no  state  to  go  anywhere.  I  de- 



cided  I  would  drive  and  said  casually,  "Bob,  let's  go  home  and 
we  can  have  a  nightcap  at  my  place — okay?" 

By  the  time  we  got  back  to  my  apartment  and  Bob  had  had  his 
nightcap,  Reenie  and  I  were  exchanging  glances.  Bob  had  as 
much  chance  of  reaching  his  bed  by  car  as  he  had  of  swimming 
across  the  Pacific. 

He  was  quite  agreeable  when  I  said,  "Bob,  why  don't  you 
spend  the  night  here?  I  can  move  in  with  Reenie.  Then  we  can 
both  arrive  early  at  the  studio  tomorrow  morning.95  Bob  thought 
that  was  a  splendid  idea.  He  staggered  off  to  the  bathroom,  and 
when  he  returned  we  poured  him  into  bed.  There  were  two  single 
beds  in  Reenie's  room — evasion  insurance  against  nights  like  this. 
I  went  to  sleep.  Reenie,  however,  was  kept  awake  for  hours.  As 
she  told  me  the  next  morning,  "It  was  really  pitiful  listening  to 
Mr.  Walker  weeping  all  night  long.  Really  sobbing  and  moaning, 
moaning,  'Jenny,  where  are  you,  Jenny?  Why  don't  you  come 
back  to  me,  Jenny?'  Honest  to  God,  Miss  G.,  he  never  stopped. 
I've  never  known  a  man  in  such  a  state." 

Reenie  had  gotten  up  early  to  get  the  coffee  and  get  us  off  to 
the  studio.  She  went  into  the  bathroom  where  she  kept  the  clean- 
ing materials,  and  opened  the  cupboard  door.  And  what  was  on 
the  floor — a  sort  of  harness.  At  first  she  didn't  know  what  it 
could  be,  and  then  she  worked  it  out.  Poor  little  Bob  wore  it 
under  his  suit.  A  padded  harness  that  gave  him  bigger  shoulders, 
bigger  arms,  bigger  muscles,  a  bigger  chest.  Reenie  didn't  touch 
it.  Bob  visited  the  bathroom  and  came  out  ready  to  go.  And  we 
drove  out  to  Universal  to  get  on  with  One  Touch  of  Venus.  I 
don't  know  if  Bob  ever  got  over  his  booze  problem.  I  do  know  he 
died  at  far  too  young  an  age:  thirty-two — more  I  think  from  a 
broken  heart  than  from  the  alcohol  he  drank. 

The  next  year,  1949,  saw  me  costarring  in  The  Bribe  with  an- 
other Robert — Robert  Taylor — with  far  more  satisfying  romantic 
results.  Not  that  the  plot  was  much  help.  Set  on  some  fictitious 
island  off  the  coast  of  Central  America,  which  looked  sus- 
piciously like  Mexico  on  MGM's  all-purpose  back  lot,  The  Bribe 
had  me  tangentially  connected  to  a  nasty  plot  to  smuggle  surplus 
American  aircraft  engines  into  South  America.  I  was  excused 
from  my  usual  slinky  black  dress  and  put  into  Mexican 
huaraches  and  fetching  native  blouses  to  match  the  climate.  And 
though  I  seemed  to  be  happy  singing  and  dancing  at  the  local 



cantina,  my  main  job  was  to  take  one  quick  look  at  Mr.  Taylor,  a 
federal  agent  dead  set  on  catching  those  smugglers,  and  fall  into 
his  arms.  This  time,  it  not  only  happened  on  screen,  it  happened 
for  real. 

There's  no  rhyme  or  reason  about  a  love  affair.  In  those  days,  I 
was  in  constant  proximity  to  some  of  the  most  handsome,  ro- 
mantic figures  on  earth,  and  they  didn't  move  me  the  slightest  bit. 
Not  that  I  didn't  adore  men.  I  did.  I  liked  their  strength,  their 
laughter,  their  vulnerability,  and  I  liked  them  in  bed!  But  I  was  a 
one-man  woman.  I  did  not  want  a  string  of  lovers.  I  had  to  like  a 
man  one  hell  of  a  lot  to  let  him  disturb  my  sleep.  But  since 
Howard  Duff  and  I  had  split  by  that  time,  I  was  available.  And 
Bob  Taylor  surely  fit  the  bill  for  me,  and  I  did  the  same  for  Bob. 

Bob  was  married  to  Barbara  Stanwyck  at  the  time,  but  the 
marriage  had  been  on  the  rocks  for  a  long  time  and  was  soon  to 
end  in  divorce.  For  one  thing,  Bob  had  not  endeared  himself  to 
Barbara  when  he'd  been  surprised  by  a  photographer  outside  a 
whorehouse  in  Rome  with  a  young  lady  who  looked  suspiciously 
like  one  of  its  employees.  Poor  Bob,  he  never  had  much  luck.  The 
story  hit  most  of  the  papers  back  home,  and  Barbara  was  not 
amused.  What  wife  would  be? 

Bob  thought  The  Bribe  was  one  of  the  worst  movies  he'd  ever 
made,  but  then  he  always  hated  the  parts  that  Metro  inflicted  on 
him.  It  all  started  with  Camille,  the  movie  where  he  played  Greta 
Garbo's  beautiful  romantic  lover  and  became  a  star.  Women  all 
over  the  world  swooned,  and  Bob  was  done  for,  typecast  forever. 
Metro  had  discovered  a  new  romantic  hero,  the  male  equivalent 
of  that  love  goddess  Fd  just  played,  and  the  studio  didn't  like  to 
tamper  with  money  in  the  bank,  no  matter  what  anyone's  per- 
sonal preferences  were. 

And  Bob  couldn't  stand  those  parts.  Sure,  he  made  enough 
money  to  buy  a  huge  ranch,  and  the  studio  loaned  him  a  plane 
and  a  copilot  to  keep  him  happy,  but  he  thought  the  parts  he 
played  demeaned  his  manhood,  and  that  ate  away  at  his  self- 
respect.  Because  Bob  wasn't  some  effeminate  type  trying  to  hide 
reality  under  a  macho  exterior;  he  was  an  outdoor  man.  Bob 
lived  and  worked  on  a  ranch  because  he  loved  it.  He  rode, 
worked  horses,  and  handled  cattle  as  well  as  any  cowboy.  He 
hunted,  fished,  shot,  and  roamed  the  wild  country  as  well  as  any 
ranger.  And  he  wanted  parts  that  mirrored  his  real  life.  He 



wanted  to  be  out  there  fighting  against  the  toughies  and  shooting 
the  baddies.  But  his  good  looks  mitigated  against  him:  he  was 
always  going  to  be  slotted  into  the  matinee-idol  category.  I  think 
that  created  a  sense  of  disappointment  in  him,  almost  a  sense  of 

I  knew  him  as  a  warm,  generous,  intelligent  human  being.  I 
especially  remember  that  though  I  smoked  cigarettes  in  those 
days,  Bob  Taylor  left  me  miles  behind.  He  was  completely  ad- 
dicted: fifty  to  seventy  a  day  before  the  cocktail  hour,  and  God 
knows  how  many  after  that.  And  he  carried  around  this  big  ther- 
mos of  black  coffee,  even  keeping  it  in  his  car.  Cigarettes  and 
black  coffee  kept  him  going  all  day  long. 

Our  love  affair  lasted  three,  maybe  four  months.  A  magical 
little  interlude.  We  hurt  no  one  because  no  one  knew — only  Ree- 
nie  on  my  side,  and  no  one  on  his.  Fve  never  forgotten  those  few 
hidden  months.  I  made  two  more  films  with  Bob,  Ride,  Vaquero! 
and  Knights  of  the  Round  Table,  where  he  played  Sir  Lancelot  (of 
course!),  but  we  never  renewed  our  romance.  And  Bob,  despite 
all  his  efforts,  couldn't  break  the  mold  of  the  beautiful  lover.  The 
film  world  remembers  him  that  way,  and  I  have  to  say  that  I  do, 

Yet  another  Bob,  Bob  Mitchum,  came  into  my  professional  life 
a  couple  of  years  later,  and  he  was  a  different  sort  of  character 
altogether.  And  let  me  make  a  frank  admission:  if  I  could  have 
gotten  him  into  bed,  I  would  have.  I  think  that  every  girl  who 
ever  worked  with  Bob  fell  in  love  with  him,  and  I  was  no  excep- 

The  film  in  question,  yet  another  loan-out,  was  called  My  For- 
bidden Past.  Someone  once  called  it  "a  steamy  tale  of  adultery, 
notorious  antecedents,  a  mysterious  inheritance,  and  an  impecu- 
nious aristocratic  family  embroiled  in  strange  goings-on  beside 
the  bayous  of  New  Orleans,"  which  I  guess  is  as  good  a  descrip- 
tion of  that  melodramatic  mishmash  as  we're  going  to  get.  Al- 
though I  do  not  immediately  ride  off  into  the  sunset  with  Bob  at 
the  close,  there  is  little  doubt  that  I'm  already  saddling  the 

Bob  had  recently  gotten  out  of  jail  after  being  set  up  for  mari- 
juana possession.  He  and  another  actor  on  My  Forbidden  Past 
smoked  pot,  and  one  day  Bob  said  to  me,  "Honey,  have  you  ever 
tried  this  stuff?" 



Actually  I  had.  It  started  when  I  was  in  a  jazz  club  in  down- 
town L.A.  with  Artie  Shaw,  listening  to  Count  Basic  and  his  or- 
chestra. I  knew  musicians  were  supposed  to  smoke  pot,  and  I 
whispered  to  Artie,  "Why  don't  I  try  it?"  And  Artie  said  very 
severely,  "You're  not  going  to  try  it.  I'm  dead  against  drugs  and 
you  are  going  to  be  against  them,  too."  But  I  went  on  coaxing 
him  and  complaining  I  was  missing  out  on  a  vital  experience.  So 
he  broke  down  and  got  these  four  little  funny-looking  sticks  of 
the  stuff  and  we  took  them  home  with  us.  Then  I  lost  my  nerve 
and  decided  I  didn't  want  to  become  a  drug  addict  after  all,  so 
Artie  hid  them  so  well  I  thought  he'd  thrown  them  away. 

Then,  months  later,  I  was  cleaning  out  the  dressing  room  and  I 
came  across  these  four  little  things  lying  there.  So  I  called  one  of 
my  best  girlfriends,  Peggy  Malley,  who  was  into  everything,  and  I 
said  in  my  most  conspiratorial  whisper,  "Peggy,  come  on  over. 
We're  going  to  smoke  some  pot." 

So  Peggy  came  over  and  we  sat  there  very  soberly  and  began  to 
puff  on  these  little  sticks,  and  I  said,  "I  think  you're  supposed  to 
inhale  very  deeply."  So  we  tried  that,  and  we  smoked  all  fucking 
four  of  them,  waiting  for  the  skies  to  open,  the  roof  to  fall  in, 
waiting  for  something  marvelous  to  happen.  It  didn't.  I  remem- 
bered that  music  is  supposed  to  enhance  the  high,  so  we  put  some 
on.  "Doesn't  sound  any  different  to  me,"  I  said.  "Doesn't  sound 
any  different  to  me  either,"  Peggy  said.  And  that  was  it.  Nothing 
happened,  except  that  we  wondered  if  Artie  had  been  conned 
into  buying  something  that  wasn't  the  real  thing. 

When  I  told  all  this  to  Bob,  he  said,  as  they  always  do,  "Well, 
maybe  you  didn't  get  the  good  stuff."  So  he  got  some  of  what  he 
considered  "the  good  stuff"  and  both  of  us,  his  hairdresser  and 
that  other  actor  climbed  into  his  trailer  and  started  puffing  away 
for  all  we  were  worth.  And,  Jesus,  I  still  didn't  feel  anything  at 

So  on  the  way  back  home  we  stopped  at  a  bar  and  I  ordered  a 
martini.  I  was  sitting  on  the  stool  and  about  to  reach  out  for  the 
glass  when  everything  started  to  feel  sort  of  funny,  in  an  unsta- 
ble, uncomfortable  sort  of  way.  I  almost  lost  my  balance.  I 
couldn't  even  tell  if  I  was  really  on  that  stool  or  not.  The  hell 
with  this,  I  thought.  I  like  to  know  where  Fm  sitting  and  what 
Fm  reaching  for  and  what  it  all  feels  like. 

That  one  experience  put  me  off  pot  for  the  rest  of  my  life.  It 



sure  wasn't  worth  all  the  hassle.  I  just  stuck  to  my  normal  drug, 
alcohol.  Booze  was  more  reliable.  And  a  lot  easier  to  get.  And  the 
truth  is,  I  never  considered  myself  to  be  the  great  boozer  the  press 
made  me  out  to  be.  I  was  never  one  of  those  solid,  silent,  day-in- 
and-day-out  drinkers.  I  did  love  parties  and  staying  up  late,  and  I 
occasionally  pretended  to  have  a  lot  more  than  I  actually  did. 
And  when  I  did  drink,  it  was  only  for  the  effect.  As  many  drinks 
as  I've  had,  I  can't  remember  enjoying  one.  The  only  reason  I 
drank  was  to  get  over  my  shyness. 

But  drunk  or  sober,  I  wasn't  kidding  when  I  said  I  really  fell 
for  Bob  Mitchum.  A  lot  of  girls  did.  I  remember  once  chatting 
with  Shirley  MacLaine,  another  member  in  good  standing,  about 
this,  and  we  both  reached  the  same  conclusion  about  Bob's  eva- 
sive tactics.  As  soon  as  he  felt  another  woman's  vibes  reaching 
out  to  entangle  him,  he'd  look  around  with  those  soulful  Irish 
eyes  of  his  and  make  a  beeline  for  the  phone.  "Help,"  he'd  yell, 
and  Dorothy,  one  of  the  most  understanding  wives  I've  ever  met, 
would  be  on  the  scene.  Dear  Bob.  A  lovely,  lovely  character,  I 
never  pursued  him.  Didn't  have  the  time.  Frank  Sinatra  had  now 
entered  my  life. 



he  first  time  I  met  Frank  Sinatra,  I  was  still 
married  to  Mickey  Rooney.  We  were  out 
at  some  Sunset  Strip  club,  probably 
Mocambo,  and  Frank  was  there.  He  knew  Mickey  pretty  well— 
who  didn't? — and  he  stepped  across  to  meet  the  new  wife.  And 
being  Frank  he  did  the  big  grin  and  said,  "Hey,  why  didn't  I  meet 
you  before  Mickey?  Then  I  could  have  married  you  myself." 

That  caught  me  off  guard.  I  guess  I  smiled  back  uncertainly, 
but  I  don't  think  I  said  a  word.  Because  in  those  early  days,  I  was 
always  feeling  out  of  my  depth.  Even  to  meet  Frank  Sinatra  was 
exciting  enough.  To  have  him  say  a  thing  like  that  left  me  dumb- 

But  Frank  was  always  like  that,  always  the  engaging  flirt.  I 
remember  being  on  my  way  to  Metro's  famous  twenty-fifth-anni- 
versary group  portrait  about  five  years  later,  an  event  that  Red 
Skelton  broke  up  by  walking  in,  raising  both  hands  in  the  air, 
and  saying,  "Okay,  kids,  the  part's  taken,  you  can  go  home 
now."  As  I  drove  to  the  studio,  a  car  sped  past  me,  swung  in 
front,  and  slowed  down  so  much  I  had  to  pass  it  myself.  The  car 
overtook  me  again  and  repeated  the  process.  Having  done  this 
about  three  times,  the  car  finally  pulled  alongside  me,  the  grin- 
ning driver  raised  his  hat  and  sped  away  to  that  same  photo  ses- 
sion. That  was  Frank.  He  could  even  flirt  in  a  car. 

I,  however,  was  not  about  to  flirt  back  that  first  night.  Mr. 
Frank  Sinatra  was  a  married  man.  Not  a  particularly  faithful 
married  man,  according  to  Hollywood  gossip.  But  a  married 



man — with  children*.  And  I,  a  faithful,  virtuous  nineteen-year-old 
bride,  definitely  did  not  flirt  with  married  men.  What  would 
Mama  say? 

This  is  not  to  say  that  I  did  not  think,  even  then,  that  Frank 
was  one  of  the  greatest  singers  of  this  century.  He  had  a  thing  in 
his  voice  I've  only  heard  in  two  other  people — Judy  Garland  and 
Maria  Callas.  A  quality  that  makes  me  want  to  cry  for  happiness, 
like  a  beautiful  sunset  or  a  boys'  choir  singing  Christmas  carols. 

And  not  only,  like  hundreds  of  other  girls  my  age,  was  I  intoxi- 
cated by  the  distinctive  sound  of  the  big  swing  bands,  but  I've 
always  loved  musicians.  I'm  absolutely  intoxicated  with  them.  All 
I  have  to  do  is  stand  in  front  of  a  bandstand  and  I'm  in  love  with 
the  whole  band.  It's  not  only  the  beautiful  swell  of  music  that 
emerges  from  the  group,  it's  the  instruments,  and  the  whole  en- 
semble look — I  think  it's  sexy  as  hell.  Some  women  fall  for  writ- 
ers, some  for  sailors,  some  for  fighters.  I'm  hooked  on  bands. 

Despite  this,  it  was  quite  some  time  before  Frank  and  I  hooked 
up  together.  My  next  contact  came  when  he  maintained  a  bach- 
elor pad  at  the  Sunset  Towers,  a  structure  that  literally  towered 
over  the  apartment  house  where  Reenie  and  I  shared  a  small 
place.  Frank  knew  I  was  there,  and  occasionally,  when  he  and  his 
buddies  were  having  a  few  drinks,  we'd  hear  their  boozy  voices 
shouting,  "Ava,  can  you  hear  me,  Ava?  Ava  Gardner,  we  know 
you're  down  there.  Hello,  Ava,  hello."  It  wasn't  the  most  charm- 
ing way  to  get  acquainted,  but  Reenie  and  I  always  politely  nod- 
ded and  smiled  back. 

Finally,  after  a  few  casual  meetings  outside  our  apartment 
houses,  Frank  stopped  me  and  said,  "Ava,  let's  be  friends.  Why 
don't  we  have  drinks  and  dinner  tonight?" 

I  looked  at  him.  I  damn  well  knew  he  was  married,  though  the 
gossip  columns  always  had  him  leaving  Nancy  for  good,  and 
married  men  were  definitely  not  high  on  my  hit  parade.  But  he 
was  handsome,  with  his  thin,  boyish  face,  the  bright  blue  eyes, 
and  this  incredible  grin.  And  he  was  so  enthusiastic  and  invigo- 
rated, clearly  pleased  with  life  in  general,  himself  in  particular, 
and,  at  that  moment,  me. 

"Okay,"  I  said.  "Sure."  He  sure  was  attractive.  Very  attractive. 
What  else  could  I  do? 

We  drank  quite  a  bit  that  night,  had  dinner,  and  ended  up  at 
some  place  Frank  owned,  or  had  borrowed.  It  certainly  wasn't 



the  Sunset  Towers,  but  it  was  very  chic.  I  suppose  you  could  say 
it  was  the  perfect  place  for  seduction.  And  yes,  we  kissed,  and 
not  just  like  good  friends.  But  even  if  1  had  been  the  most  willing 
girl  in  the  world,  which  I  wasn't,  I  felt  it  was  all  wrong.  Some- 
how cheap  and  wrong.  I  was  increasingly  attracted  to  Frank,  but 
this  just  didn't  feel  like  the  time  or  the  place  to  do  something 
about  it.  So  I  went  home  alone  and,  though  it  had  in  truth  barely 
began,  I  thought  the  chapter  on  Mr.  Sinatra  in  my  life  had  closed. 

Then,  sometime  early  in  1949,  Bappie  and  I  rented  a  house  in 
Palm  Springs,  a  desert  town  that  had  become  a  favored  holiday 
retreat  for  Hollywood  types.  People  were  always  giving  parties 
there,  and  Bappie  and  I  were  usually  invited.  These  weren't  nec- 
essarily the  most  scintillating  affairs,  and  at  one  of  them  Bappie 
got  so  bored  that  she  left  after  an  hour.  She  took  our  car,  know- 
ing that  I  could  easily  get  a  ride  home  from  one  of  the  guests. 

And  who  should  arrive  at  my  elbow,  dry  martini  in  hand,  but 
one  of  those  guests.  The  blue  eyes  were  inquisitive,  the  smile  still 
bright  and  audacious,  the  whole  face  even  friendly  and  more  ex- 
pressive than  I  remembered.  Oh,  God,  Frank  Sinatra  could  be  the 
sweetest,  most  charming  man  in  the  world  when  he  was  in  the 

"Good  to  see  you  again,"  he  said.  "It's  been  a  long  time." 

"Sure  has,"  I  answered,  feeling  better  already. 

"I  suppose  we  were  rushing  things  a  little  the  last  time  we 

"You  were  rushing  things  a  little." 

"Let's  start  again,"  said  Frank.  "What  are  you  doing  now?" 

"Making  pictures  as  usual.  How  about  you?" 

"Trying  to  pick  myself  up  off  my  ass." 

I  knew  what  that  was  all  about.  Everyone  knew  that  Frank 
was  at  one  of  the  lowest  points  in  his  career.  His  golden  voice 
was  letting  him  down,  hitting  the  more  than  occasional  clinker; 
his  marvelous  phrasing  was  losing  its  smoothness.  After  years  on 
top,  he'd  fallen  to  number  five  on  the  Downbeat  vocalist  poll, 
had  gone  quite  a  while  without  a  bestselling  record,  and  suffered 
the  humiliation  of  having  Metro  switch  his  billing  from  No.  1  to 
No.  2  when  On  the  Town  with  Gene  Kelly  was  released. 

But  though  I  knew  all  about  Frank's  problems,  I  wasn't  about 
to  ask  him  about  them  that  night.  And,  honey,  I  didn't  bring  up 
Nancy  either.  This  night  was  too  special  for  that.  A  lot  of  silly 



stories  have  been  written  about  what  happened  to  us  in  Palm 
Springs,  but  the  truth  is  both  more  and  less  exciting.  We  drank, 
we  laughed,  we  talked,  and  we  fell  in  love.  Frank  gave  me  a  lift 
back  to  our  rented  house.  We  did  not  kiss  or  make  dates,  but  we 
knew,  and  I  think  it  must  have  frightened  both  of  us.  I  went  in  to 
wake  Bappie  up,  which  didn't  appeal  to  her  much,  but  I  had  to 
tell  someone  how  much  I  liked  Frank  Sinatra.  I  just  wasn't  pre- 
pared to  say  that  what  I  really  meant  by  like  was  love. 

Back  in  Hollywood,  Frank  called  me  up.  We  met  for  dinner  at 
a  quiet  place,  and  we  didn't  do  much  drinking.  This  time  I  did 
ask  him  about  Nancy.  He  said  he'd  left  her  physically,  emo- 
tionally, and  geographically  years  before,  and  there  was  no  way 
he  was  going  back.  The  kids,  however,  were  something  else;  he 
was  committed  to  them  forever.  I  was  to  learn  that  that  kind  of 
deep  loyalty — not  faithfulness,  but  loyalty — was  a  critical  part  of 
his  nature. 

We  didn't  say  much  more.  Love  is  a  wordless  communion  be- 
tween two  people.  That  night  we  went  back  to  that  little  yellow 
house  in  Nichols  Canyon  and  made  love.  And,  oh,  God,  it  was 
magic.  We  became  lovers  forever — eternally.  Big  words,  I  know. 
But  1  truly  felt  that  no  matter  what  happened  we  would  always 
be  in  love.  And  God  almighty,  things  did  happen. 

Frank  and  I  didn't  hide  ourselves  away,  but  we  kept,  as  they 
say,  a  fairly  low  profile.  Still,  one  or  two  people  tried  to  warn  me 
about  him.  Lana  Turner  was  one.  She  had  been  one  of  Artie 
Shaw's  wives,  and  she'd  had  a  very  serious  affair  with  Frank  a 
couple  of  years  before  me.  We  met  in  the  ladies'  room  during  a 
party,  and  she  told  me  her  story.  She  had  been  deeply  in  love 
with  Frank  and,  so  she  thought,  Frank  with  her.  Though  he  was 
shuttling  backward  and  forward  between  her  bedroom  and 
Nancy's,  trying  to  equate  obedience  to  Catholic  doctrines  with 
indulgence  in  his  natural  inclinations,  divorce  plans  were  all  set 
up  and  wedding  plans  had  been  made. 

Then  Lana  woke  up  one  morning,  picked  up  the  newspaper, 
and  read  that  Frank  had  changed  his  mind  and  gone  back  to 
Nancy  for  good.  It  was  the  old  Catholic  arrangement:  wife  and 
family  come  first.  Nancy  had  almost  made  a  theme  song  out  of  it: 
"Frank  always  comes  back  to  me." 

I  really  liked  Lana.  She  was  a  nice  girl,  and  she  felt  neither 
malice  nor  anger  toward  Frank  and  me.  She  just  thought  I  ought 



to  know.  I  told  Lana  gently  that  Frank  and  I  were  in  love,  and 
that  this  time  he  really  was  going  to  leave  Nancy  for  good.  If  I'm 
in  love,  I  want  to  get  married:  that's  my  fundamentalist  Protes- 
tant background.  If  he  wanted  me,  there  could  be  no  compromise 
on  that  issue. 

As  much  in  love  as  we  were,  Frank  and  I  didn't  really  care  if, 
sooner  or  later,  people  found  out  about  us.  But  we  thought  it  was 
basically  our  private  business,  something  between  two  people. 
And  those  feelings  led  me,  early  in  1950,  to  make  a  very  funda- 
mental mistake. 

One  of  Texas's  gaudiest  millionaires,  the  model  in  fact,  for 
the  James  Dean  character  in  Giant,  had  built  the  enormous 
Shamrock  Hotel  in  Houston,  and  Frank  had  accepted  a  singing 
engagement  there.  So  I  called  Dick  Jones,  one  of  his  best  friends, 
and  said,  "Let's  go  to  Houston  and  surprise  Frank." 

I  can  still  hear  the  doubt  that  crept  into  Dick's  voice  as  he  said, 
"Ava,  I  don't  think  that's  such  a  good  idea." 

That's  all  I  needed  to  hear  to  make  me  even  more  determined 
to  go.  uOf  course  it's  a  good  idea  to  go,"  I  insisted.  "Frank  will 
love  it.  You're  not  going  to  back  out  on  me,  are  you?" 

So  we  went,  and  Frank  did  welcome  me  with  appropriate  hugs 
and  kisses.  The  trouble  started  when  the  mayor  of  Houston  in- 
vited us  to  dinner  at  one  of  the  city's  best  Italian  restaurants.  In 
the  middle  of  the  meal,  a  photographer  from  the  Houston  Post 
arrived  to  commemorate  the  occasion  with  a  bunch  of  pictures. 
Frank  reacted  as  if  he'd  found  a  live  cobra  in  his  salad.  No 
punches  were  exchanged,  only  a  few  angry  words,  before  owner 
Tony  Vallone  calmed  everybody  down. 

No  harm  seemed  to  be  done,  but  within  twenty-four  hours  the 
news  that  Frank  Sinatra  and  Ava  Gardner  were  honoring  the  new 
Shamrock  Hotel  with  their  presence  made  headlines  all  over  the 
world.  A  press  storm  of  major  proportions  broke  over  our  heads, 
dooming  forever  the  "just  good  friends"  line  we'd  been  successful 
with  so  far.  Now,  nearly  forty  years  later,  I  can  be  fairly  rational 
about  this,  even  smile  ruefully  at  all  the  fuss.  Then,  however,  I 
was  deeply  hurt  and  upset.  All  I  had  done  was  fall  in  love.  It  was, 
unfortunately,  with  a  married  Catholic  man. 

If  the  Shamrock  mess  had  one  positive  result,  it  convinced 
Nancy  that  this  time  Frank  was  for  real.  She  picked  Valentine's 
Day  1950  to  tell  the  world  they'd  separated.  "Unfortunately,  my 



married  life  with  Frank  has  become  most  unhappy  and  almost 
unbearable,"  her  statement  read.  "We  have  therefore  separated.  I 
have  requested  my  attorney  to  attempt  to  work  out  a  property 
settlement,  but  I  do  not  contemplate  divorce  proceedings  in  the 
foreseeable  future/9 

Now  the  shit  really  hit  the  fan.  In  the  next  few  weeks,  I  was 
receiving  scores  of  letters  accusing  me  of  being  a  scarlet  woman, 
a  home  wrecker,  and  worse.  One  correspondent  addressed  me  as 
"Bitch-Jezebel-Gardner,"  the  Legion  of  Decency  threatened  to 
ban  my  movies,  and  Catholic  priests  found  the  time  to  write  me 
accusatory  letters.  I  even  read  where  the  Sisters  of  Mary  and 
Joseph  asked  their  students  at  St.  Paul  the  Apostle  School  in  Los 
Angeles  to  pray  for  Frank's  poor  wife. 

1  didn't  understand  then  and,  frankly,  I  still  don't  understand 
now  why  there  should  be  this  prurient  mass  hysteria  about  a 
male  and  female  climbing  into  bed  and  doing  what  comes  natu- 
rally. It's  blessed  in  weddings,  celebrated  in  honeymoons,  but  out 
of  wedlock  it's  condemned  as  the  worst  of  sins.  Maybe  people 
are  paying  too  much  attention  to  the  "lock"  part  of  wedlock. 
And  maybe,  just  maybe,  there's  a  touch  of  jealousy  somewhere. 

As  if  all  this  press  attention,  the  idea  the  world  had  that  it  was 
entitled  to  know  all  about  every  minute  of  our  lives,  wasn't 
enough  to  put  strains  on  our  love,  neither  one  of  us  had  exactly 
what  you  could  call  a  tranquil  temperament.  Both  Frank  and  I 
were  high-strung  people,  possessive  and  jealous  and  liable  to  ex- 
plode fast.  When  I  lose  my  temper,  honey,  you  can't  find  it  any- 
place. I've  just  got  to  let  off  steam,  and  he's  the  same  way. 

But,  despite  the  different  directions  our  careers  seemed  to  be 
moving  in,  we  never  fought  about  professional  matters.  It  was 
another  sort  of  jealousy  that  ate  into  our  bones.  Primitive,  pas- 
sionate, bitter,  acrimonious,  elemental,  red-fanged  romantic  jeal- 
ousy was  our  poison.  Accusations  and  counteraccusations,  that's 
what  our  quarrels  were  all  about. 

Frank  hated  two  men  in  my  life — one  past,  one  still  present. 
Artie  Shaw  and  Howard  Hughes.  Artie  Shaw  he  could  just  about 
stomach  because  we  had  been  respectably  married  and  that  was 
all  over.  Howard  Hughes  he  saw  red  about.  He  refused  to  under- 
stand or  believe  that  I  had  never  slept  with  or  even  had  a  necking 
session  with  the  man. 

Howard  Hughes  was  not  helping  things  along  either.  His  spies 



had  me  watched  from  the  very  first  time  he  met  me.  Spying  was 
one  of  Howard's  continual  preoccupations.  He  spied  on  and 
learned  things  about  people.  That  gave  him  power  to  exert  lever- 
age. At  times,  as  I  was  to  find  out,  Howard  Hughes  was  not  a 
very  nice  man. 

I  never  gave  a  hoot  about  his  spies.  I  did  my  own  thing.  If  he 
found  out  —  and  Fin  sure  he  did  —  that  I  was  sleeping  with 
Mickey  Rooney  after  our  divorce,  as  well  as  making  love  with  the 
likes  of  Howard  Duff,  Robert  Taylor,  and  Frank  Sinatra,  and  he 
didn't  like  it,  he  could  go  and  jump  in  a  cold  shower. 

But  he  went  on  about  Frank  over  and  over  again.  Maybe 
Howard  had  thought  that  after  two  failed  marriages  the  coast 
was  clear  for  him  to  press  his  case,  and  now  this  singer  was  get- 
ting in  the  way.  He  first  raised  the  subject  at  dinner  one  night. 

"Ava,"  he  said,  "you  should  not  be  getting  mixed  up  with  this 

"Mixed  up  with  what  man?" 

"Frank  Sinatra." 

"What  the  hell's  it  got  to  do  with  you?" 

"He's  married.  He'll  never  get  a  divorce.  His  constant  affairs 
with  women  are  notorious.  He's  not  good  enough  for  you." 

"Who  is  good  enough  for  me?  You?" 

"He  has  woman  after  woman.  You  can't  keep  up  with  them." 

Howard  had  forgotten  that  through  Bappie  and  Charlie  Guest 
I  knew  all  about  the  houses  and  the  stashed-away  babes.  I  began 
to  laugh.  Howard  didn't  like  that  either.  He  began  to  fuss.  I  told 
him  to  forget  it.  It  was  all  over  between  us,  even  though  I  don't 
think  Frank  ever  believed  it  was. 

In  March  of  1950,  Frank  was  opening  a  new  show  at  the 
Copacabana  in  New  York,  a  show  that  we  both  hoped  would 
end  his  career  skid.  Naturally,  I  wanted  to  be  there  with  him,  and 
since  the  next  film  I'd  be  doing,  Pandora  and  the  flying 
Dutchman,  was  about  to  begin  shooting  in  Europe,  stopping  off 
in  New  York  on  the  way  made  perfect  sense. 

Frank  was  nervous  before  he  went  on,  which  was  unlike  him, 
but  he  sang  like  an  angel,  especially  "Nancy  with  the  Laughing 
Face,"  a  song  written  about  his  daughter,  not  his  wife.  I've  al- 
ways thought  it  was  a  beautiful  song,  and  contrary  to  what  ev- 
eryone seems  to  believe,  it  was  never  the  reason  for  a  single 
quarrel  between  us.  Unfortunately,  we  never  had  any  trouble  in- 
venting other  reasons  to  be  at  each  other's  throats. 



One  evening,  we  escaped  from  our  friends  and  went  alone  to  a 
restaurant.  Restaurants  were  frequently  where  our  quarrels  be- 
gan, and  I  have  to  confess  I  started  a  lot  of  them,  sometimes 
before  the  appetizer  arrived.  A  pretty  girl  would  pass  and  recog- 
nize Frank.  She'd  smile.  He'd  nod  and  smile  back.  It  would  hap- 
pen again.  Frank  would  feel  the  temperature  rising  across  the 
table  and  try  to  escape  with  a  sort  of  sickly  look.  I'd  say  some- 
thing sweet  and  ladylike,  such  as,  "I  suppose  you're  sleeping  with 
all  these  broads,"  and  we'd  be  off  to  the  races. 

The  quarrel  started  on  those  lines  that  night.  The  claws  of  my 
jealousy  were  showing.  But  had  I  known  what  the  outcome  of 
that  night  would  be,  I  would  have  stayed  for  the  coffee,  the 
check,  and  the  taxi  ride  home. 

As  it  was,  one  second  I  was  there  and  the  next  I'd  scooped  up 
my  handbag  and  was  outside  the  door  and  hailing  a  taxi. 

I  was  angry.  I  was  angry  with  Frank,  myself,  and  the  whole 
wide  world. 

In  the  Hampshire  House,  where  we  were  staying,  the  three  of 
us  occupied  a  large  suite.  There  were  two  bedrooms,  with  Frank 
using  one  and  Bappie  and  I  the  other,  both  divided  by  a  large 
living  room  and  kitchen. 

Bappie  was  in  our  room  asleep,  so  I  sat  in  the  living  room 
feeling  lonely  and  miserable.  I  knew  I  couldn't  go  to  bed — I 
would  have  lain  awake  for  hours. 

So  who  could  I  talk  to  about  my  problems?  I  had  to  explain 
things  to  someone.  Here  I  was  going  off  to  Europe  for  months, 
and  Frank  and  I  were  having  these  constant  dramas.  Then  an- 
other thought  hit  me.  Artie  Shaw  was  in  town.  He  had  a  small 
apartment  in  New  York.  If  he  happened  to  be  home  he  would 
talk.  Artie  solved  other  people's  problems  in  a  couple  of  sen- 
tences. I  still  met  him  occasionally,  which,  Frank  being  Frank, 
made  him  jealous. 

I  phoned  Artie.  He  was  at  home  and  his  current  girlfriend  was 
with  him.  I  guess  he  could  tell  by  my  voice  I  was  down,  so  he 
said,  "Tell  you  what,  Ava.  We're  going  to  bed  pretty  soon,  but 
why  don't  you  come  by  and  have  a  nightcap  before  you  turn  in?" 

I  thought  that  was  a  good  idea.  And  off  I  went  leaving  my 
address  book  open  to  the  page  with  Artie's  phone  number.  I  try 
and  tell  myself  I  didn't  do  that  deliberately,  but  it  was  a  pretty 
classic  slip-up  if  I  do  say  so  myself. 

Artie  and  his  girlfriend  were  sitting  there  in  their  dressing 



gowns  when  I  arrived,  but  they  said  they  were  in  no  hurry  to  go 
to  bed.  I  was  there  maybe  twenty  minutes  to  half  an  hour  before 
the  doorbell  rang.  Artie  answered  it,  "Why,  hello,  Frank.  Come 
on  in.  Good  to  see  you.  Yeah,  Ava's  here.  Do  you  know  my 
girlfriend?"  A  real  smooth  customer,  Artie,  and  maybe  he  had  to 
be  at  that  particular  moment. 

Frank  came  in.  He  had  his  buddy  Hank  Sanicola  with  him, 
and  Hank  hung  back  a  little  embarrassed.  Frank  looked  a  bit 
gray  and  haunted.  I  could  see  how  he  felt,  sense  his  distress.  We 
were  living  together.  I  was  his  girl.  We  were  in  love.  He  had 
followed  the  clue  left  open  in  my  address  book  and  he  was  ready 
to  do  battle  if  necessary.  Now  I  had  made  a  fool  of  him.  There 
we  were  sitting  around  sipping  drinks,  Artie  and  his  girlfriend  in 
their  robes,  a  domestic  idyll  if  ever  there  was  one. 

Artie  knew  the  score  and  did  his  best  to  act  as  if  this  visit  was 
the  most  natural  of  social  events. 

"Frank,  sit  down  and  have  a  drink.  You,  too,  Hank." 

Frank  shook  his  head.  He  turned,  his  head  a  bit  low,  his  shoul- 
ders hunched.  He  and  Hank  walked  out  the  door  together  and 
closed  it  behind  them.  There  was  not  much  we  could  say  either.  I 
sipped  at  my  drink  and  Artie  went  on  making  casual  conversa- 
tion. After  a  few  more  minutes,  I  thanked  them  for  the  drink  and 
made  my  way  back  to  the  Hampshire  House. 

By  now,  it  was  pretty  late  at  night.  I  don't  know  how  long  I'd 
been  back  in  the  suite  when  the  phone  rang.  It  was  Frank,  and  I'll 
never  forget  his  voice.  He  said,  "I  can't  stand  it  any  longer.  I'm 
going  to  kill  myself — now!" 

Then  there  was  this  tremendous  bang  in  my  ear,  and  I  knew  it 
was  a  revolver  shot.  My  whole  mind  sort  of  exploded  in  a  great 
wave  of  panic,  terror,  and  shocked  disbelief.  Oh,  God!  Oh,  God! 
I  threw  the  phone  down  and  raced  across  the  living  room  and 
into  Frank's  room.  I  didn't  know  what  I  expected  to  find — a 
body?  And  there  was  a  body  lying  on  the  bed.  Oh,  God,  was  he 
dead?  I  threw  myself  on  it  saying,  "Frank,  Frank  .  .  ."  And  the 
face,  with  a  rather  pale  little  smile,  turned  toward  me,  and  the 
voice  said,  "Oh,  hello." 

The  goddamn  revolver  was  still  smoking  in  his  hand.  He  had 
fired  a  single  shot  through  a  pillow  and  into  the  mattress.  He'd 
thought  that  a  pillow  and  a  mattress  would  muffle  the  sound  of 
the  shot,  and  I  would  be  the  only  one  startled  by  its  noise.  He 



hadn't  realized  that  half  of  New  York  had  been  sitting  up,  pencils 
poised,  waiting  to  include  this  moment  in  their  memoirs.  I  re- 
member my  feelings  very  well.  They  were  not  of  anger  or  frustra- 
tion, they  were  of  overwhelming  relief.  He  was  alive,  thank  God, 
he  was  alive.  I  held  him  tightly  to  me.  What  would  I  have  done  if 
he  was  dead?  My  mind  could  not  comprehend  that  thought. 

I  didn't  ask  him  why  he'd  done  it.  I  knew  that  without  asking. 
But  now  reason  had  to  take  over.  It  had  been  one  hell  of  a  bang 
and  people  would  be  asking  questions.  Frank  got  up  and  put  on 
his  robe.  The  phone  rang.  It  was  the  desk  clerk.  "Mr.  Sinatra, 
have  you  heard  a  gunshot  from  anywhere  near  your  room?" 

Gunshot?  What  gunshot?  Frank's  innocence  could  have  won 
him  an  Oscar  nomination.  But  now  we  had  to  get  rid  of  the  evi- 
dence. We  called  Hank  Sanicola,  who  was  down  several  floors 
below  us,  and  he  was  in  the  room  within  seconds.  The  hot  gun 
was  stowed  under  Bappie's  pillow — didn't  all  virtuous  North 
Carolina  girls  sleep  with  a  gun  under  their  heads?  Hank  took  a 
quick  look  outside  at  the  empty  corridor,  grabbed  the  mattress 
and  made  a  run  for  the  back  stairs  leading  to  his  room.  No  one 
who  stayed  at  the  Hampshire  House  would  have  been  seen  dead 
on  a  back  stairs. 

I  sat  there  in  a  chair,  the  shock  now  taking  over,  and  trembled. 
There  was  another  knock  at  the  door — one  that  we  were  expect- 
ing— an(J  two  police  officers  introduced  themselves.  Frank  in- 
vited them  into  the  living  room.  I  was  there  fully  dressed,  Frank 
was  in  his  robe.  "Sorry  to  disturb  you,  Mr.  Sinatra,  but  there 
seems-  to  have  been  a  gunshot  fired  around  this  part  of  the  hotel. 
We're  trying  to  find  out  what  happened."  Frank's  innocence  was 
very  convincing.  Although  I  was  trembling  like  jelly  inside  I  was 
probably  convincing,  too.  The  policemen  left  very  politely,  and 
Frank  and  I  never  mentioned  the  incident  again.  Postmortems 
were  not  our  style,  at  least  partly  because  we  knew  that  if  we 
started  going  back  over  old  arguments  we'd  probably  end  up  re- 
peating them.  Besides,  there  were  plenty  of  others  waiting  for  us 
in  the  future. 



f  all  the  damn  films  I  made.  Pandora  and 
the  Flying  Dutchman  would  probably 
rank  as  one  of  the  most  obscure.  Yet  al- 
most nothing  I've  done  before  or  since  had  as  much  of  an  effect 
on  me.  In  fact,  it  wouldn't  be  an  exaggeration  to  say  making  it 
changed  my  life  forever.  Because  Pandora  got  me  outside  these 
United  States  for  the  first  time  and  introduced  me  to  the  two 
countries,  England  and  Spain,  where  I  was  to  spend  much  of  the 
rest  of  my  life.  One  trip  abroad,  honey,  and  I  almost  never 
looked  back. 

With  the  crumbling  of  the  studio  system  and  the  strength  of 
the  dollar,  it  came  to  make  more  and  more  financial  sense  to 
shoot  films  outside  of  Hollywood,  especially  since  a  lot  of  Amer- 
ican film  money  was  frozen  overseas.  Pandora,  to  be  filmed  in 
Spain,  was  part  of  that  trend.  But  England,  where  we  had  to  stop 
to  fit  costumes  and  take  care  of  preproduction  stuff,  was  actually 
the  first  country  outside  the  United  States  I  ever  saw.  And 
strangely  enough,  England  proved  to  be  very  much  like  North 
Carolina.  The  English  use  expressions  I've  never  heard  anyplace 
else  but  back  home,  so  I  felt  comfortable  with  them  right  away.  If 
Spain  hadn't  gotten  in  the  way,  I  might  have  moved  there  first. 
While  I  was  in  London,  though,  the  minions  of  Metro 
wouldn't  rest  until  they  involved  me  in  one  of  their  silly  publicity 
stunts.  The  bearskin-wearing  Grenadier  guardsmen  who  stand 
watch  over  Buckingham  Palace  are  known  for  their  stone-faced 
reaction  to  any  kind  of  tourist  provocation.  So  naturally,  I  was 


A  VA:    MY  STOjR  Y 

dispatched,  with  a  photographer  conveniently  in  tow,  to  make 
one  of  them  smile. 

Well,  the  man  in  the  red  tunic  would  not  grin  no  matter  what  I 
did.  The  British  press  were  not  amused,  one  man  writing  rather 
witheringly  that  "This  is  the  kind  of  conduct  we  have  to  expect 
of  gawking  tourists,  but  not  of  an  important  actress  working  in 
and  enjoying  our  country."  And  to  tell  you  the  truth,  I  thought  it 
was  rather  cheap  myself  and  for  a  long  time  I  was  somewhat 
ashamed  of  having  harassed  the  poor  man. 

Many  years  later,  however,  I  was  passing  through  London's 
Heathrow  Airport  when  a  girl  at  the  airline  desk  smiled,  asked 
for  my  autograph,  and  said,  "Miss  Gardner,  do  you  remember 
how  you  tried  to  make  that  guardsman  on  sentry  duty  smile?" 

"Of  course  I  do,"  I  said.  "And  I'm  still  ashamed  of  it." 

"That  was  my  grandfather — "  she  began. 

"Well,  apologize  to  him  for  me,  will  you?"  I  cut  in.  "It  was  the 
silliest  thing. I've  ever  done." 

Then  I  saw  that  she  was  laughing. 

"Apologize — why?  Miss  Gardner,  that  was  the  most  exciting 
thing  that  ever  happened  to  him,  and  he's  boasted  about  it  ever 
since.  He'll  go  on  telling  that  story  down  at  the  pub  until  the  day 
he  dies." 

I  was  pleased  about  that. 

Much  as  I  loved  London,  I  was  also  dying  to  visit  Paris,  just 
hours  away.  I  had  studied  French  in  high  school,  my  teacher  was 
adorable,  and  I'd  loved  her.  "Do  you  understand  .  .  .  Parisl"  I 
just  about  screamed  at  Bappie,  who  had  come  over  on  the  trip 
with  me.  "I  can  use  my  French  I" 

Metro  did  have  its  uses  in  those  days.  They  arranged  for  a 
first-class  trip  to  Paris  and  put  Bappie  and  me  up  at  the  Hotel 
Georges  V,  one  of  the  classiest  in  town.  And  we  were  all  set  for  a 
classy  dinner  at  the  Tour  d' Argent,  the  kind  of  restaurant  that 
made  Paris  Paris. 

But  was  I  satisfied?  No,  I  was  not.  "Darling,"  I  said  to  Bappie, 
"I  do  not  intend  to  go  around  Paris  in  a  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 
Rolls-Royce  with  a  uniformed  chauffeur.  I  want  to  really  experi- 
ence this  town.  I  want  to  speak  French."  It  did  cross  my  mind 
that  my  Tobacco  Road  pronunciation  might  be  a  little  difficult  to 
understand.  But  to  hell  with  that.  I  knew  about  three  sentences  in 
French,  and  I  figured  that  should  get  us  anywhere. 



In  the  ladies'  room  at  the  Tour,  I  gave  Bappie  the  word,  "This 
is  the  breakaway  point.  We  get  rid  of  the  Rolls,  ditch  the  chauf- 
feur and  the  Metro  man  who's  looking  after  us,  and  off  we  go." 

Bappie  gave  me  one  of  those  grim  North  Carolina  looks,  so 
pained  I  might  as  well  be  offering  her  a  tour  of  the  Bronx. 
"There's  a  very  good  bar  at  the  hotel,"  she  said.  "Are  you  sure 
this  is  a  good  idea?" 

"Of  course  it's  a  good  idea.  This  Tour  d' Argent  stuff  is  strictly 
for  tourists.  I  can  speak  French.  What's  to  be  afraid  of?" 

So,  safely  outside  the  restaurant,  we  stopped  a  real  Paris  taxi 
driver.  He  was  not  likely  to  understand  any  language,  especially 
his  own,  coming  out  of  the  mouths  of  a  couple  of  North  Carolina 
broads  .  .  .  but  one  thing  he  did  understand  was  money,  and  we 
were  American  so  we  had  to  have  money. 

So  we  start  our  tour  with  my  French  and  his  determination  not 
to  understand  it.  I  was  trying  to  make  it  clear  that  as  American 
ladies  we  would  like  to  see  both  Paris  and  real  Parisians,  and  he 
was  "Je  ne  comprend  pas"ing  and  waving  his  arms,  while  Bappie 
was  using  her  undertaker's  voice  to  repeat,  "Oh,  for  Christ's  sake 
let's  go  back  to  the  Georges  Cinq  and  have  a  drink."  So  we  drove 
around  Paris  for  about  forty-five  minutes  with  me  going  on  about 
two  women  without  a  male  escort  wanting  to  see  the  real  Paris, 
and  then  suddenly  something  under  that  cloth  cap  clicked.  A  ray 
of  light  penetrated.  Two  ladies  alone  .  .  .  "Ah,  Mademoiselle  .  .  . 
je  comprend  .  .  .  oui."  I  sat  back  triumphant,  saying,  "You  see, 
Bappie,  all  it  takes  is  a  little  patience,"  and  Bappie  was  still  going 
on  about  the  bar  at  the  Georges  Cinq. 

So  we  drove  up  in  front  of  this  little  joint  that  looked  very 
elegant.  Lights  above  a  striped  red  canopy,  and  neat  little  stairs 
leading  down  to  what  looked  like  an  underground  cellar.  All 
done  up  in  scarlet.  Very  chic.  Very  colorful.  Very  French.  And  I 
could  hear  music! 

"Who  the  hell  wants  to  go  back  to  the  Georges  Cinq  when  we 
can  find  a  real  swinging  place  like  this?"  I  hissed  in  Bappie's  ear. 
"We're  gonna  hear  some  wonderful  jazz  here,  I  can  feel  it  in  my 
bones."  Even  the  doorman  in  his  uniform  was  a  good-looking 
guy.  We  walked  in,  and  it  was  all  extremely  chic,  with  little  tables 
round  the  walls  and  a  sprinkling  of  couples  sitting  at  them,  violin 
players  in  full  white  tie  and  tails  sawing  away  at  violins,  all  the 
waiters  resplendent  in  tuxedoes.  The  headwaiter,  another  good- 



looking  guy,  smiled  and  showed  us  to  a  discreet  little  table.  I 
thought  maybe  he  recognized  me,  but  I  couldn't  have  cared  less, 
because  within  seconds  a  magnum — not  a  bottle,  mind  you,  a 
magnum — of  champagne  had  arrived  and  the  maitre  d'  bent  low 
and  whispered,  "On  the  house,  compliments  of  the  management, 
no  charge,"  which  was  rather  sweet  music  to  start  the  night  off 

The  five  violinists  were  now  converging  on  us  like  a  flock  of 
friendly  vultures,  all  bright  smiles  and  sawing  violin  bows.  I'm 
whispering  triumphantly  to  Bappie,  "What  did  I  tell  you?  What's 
the  Georges  Cinq  bar  got  to  compare  with  this?  This  is  the  real 

At  that  moment  Bappie  seemed  more  interested  in  the  cham- 
pagne than  in  my  little  gloat,  though  I  did  notice  that  her  bright 
eyes  were  scrutinizing  the  joint  with  their  usual  sharpness.  Then  I 
heard  her  say  something,  but  I  wasn't  paying  attention  to  any- 
thing except  the  special  attention  we  were  getting.  Then  I  caught 

"D'you  notice,  honey,  there  are  no  girls  in  this  place?" 

I  didn't  bother  to  look  round.  "So  what?"  I  said.  "Isn't  that 

Then  I  realized  that  was  not  what  Bappie  meant.  So  I  put 
down  my  glass  and  refocused  my  eyes  just  as  I  heard  her  say, 
"Funny  thing,  none  of  these  musicians  need  a  shave." 

I  took  a  long  peek. 

"No,  they  don't  need  a  shave.  They're  darling." 

"Not  a  mustache  or  a  beard  among  them,"  Bappie  went  on  in 
an  increasingly  sinister  voice. 

I  got  the  essence  of  her  conversation  and  had  another  look  at 
the  smooth  chins  tucked  under  the  singing  violins.  They  were  as 
polished  as  peeled  hard-boiled  eggs.  The  maitre  d*  arrived  back  at 
the  same  moment  to  do  a  little  more  pouring  and  establish  that 
there  was  a  lot  left  in  the  magnum,  and  I  looked  straight  into  his 
beautiful  soulful  eyes.  Jesus!  No!  Her  beautiful,  soulful  eyes. 

I  did  a  quick  scrutiny  of  all  the  tables.  They  were  all  men.  No, 
they  were  not.  They  were  all  women  dressed  as  men.  The  cus- 
tomers, the  orchestra,  the  maitre  d'  .  .  .  I  expect  even  the  god- 
damn doorman  outside  was  a  girll 

"Ava,"  Bappie  said  in  her  dark-brown  North  Carolina  Baptist 
Belt  voice  that  fortunately  nobody  understood  except  me,  "we 



are  in  a  House  of  Lesbians!"  But  she  was  kind  enough  not  to 
add,  "So  this  is  where  your  so-called  command  of  the  French 
language  has  brought  us." 

I  swallow  my  champagne  very  carefully,  and  smile  as  the 
maitre  d'  gives  me  a  refill  I  am  twenty-seven  years  old,  and  I 
know  what  lesbians  are.  I  am  not  certain  I  know  what  they  do, 
but  I  am  a  big,  five-foot-six  healthy  girl,  and  I  am  sure  I  can 
defend  us  if  necessary.  Then  common  sense  comes  to  my  rescue. 
All  the  girls  have  been  welcoming,  and  charming.  We  will  con- 
duct ourselves  like  a  couple  of  equally  nice  Southern  ladies, 
equally  well  behaved.  After  all,  they  may  think  well  be  back  to- 
morrow night  to  join  the  gang. 

We  do  not  stay  much  longer.  We  get  up,  we  smile,  we  shake 
hands,  we  say  good-bye.  There  is  no  mention  of  a  bill.  Outside 
there  is  a  taxi,  and  the  driver  understands  my  hissed  "Hotel 
Georges  Cinq"  very  easily. 

Bappie  only  felt  safe  when  we  were  inside  its  doors. 

After  an  outing  like  that,  Bappie  and  I  were  none  too  unhappy 
to  be  leaving  for  Spain,  where  filming  was  to  begin  in  the  spring 
of  1950.  A  car  took  us  from  the  Barcelona  airport  on  the  bumpy 
road  north  toward  France  and  the  Pyrenees,  passing  through 
pine-clad  green  hills  as  we  turned  down  toward  the  Mediterra- 
nean and  the  ancient  town  of  Tossa  del  Mar.  The  port  slid  into 
view  around  a  golden  curve,  an  ancient  castle  dominating  its  en- 

The  streets  of  Tossa  were  narrow,  opening  into  pleasant,  shady 
public  squares,  many  with  bubbling  fountains.  The  markets 
seemed  everywhere,  full  of  bright  vegetables  and  gleaming  wet 
fish.  There  were  few  cars  and  even  fewer  gasoline  pumps,  and 
package  tours  had  not  even  been  invented  yet.  Every  night  the 
sky  was  filled  with  stars  and  the  cellars  and  bars  were  filled  with 
flamenco  songs  and  Gypsy  dancing.  Goddammit,  the  whole  of 
the  Costa  Brava  was  one  long,  continuous  film  set  in  those  days. 

I  have  to  admit,  I  was  fascinated  by  Spain  from  the  first.  I  felt  a 
kinship  with  the  flamenco;  it  was  alive  then,  and  pure.  The  bull- 
fights made  for  beautiful,  exciting  pageants,  as  did  the  fiestas, 
when  everyone  dressed  up  in  those  wonderful  costumes.  It  was 
all  wonderful,  and  it  went  on  all  day  and  all  night.  I  loved  it. 

I  wasn't  in  Spain  just  to  gawk,  of  course;  I  had  a  picture  to 
make,  and  one  with  a  quite  unusual  plot.  I  played  Pandora  Rey- 



nolds,  a  1930s  play  girl,  loved  by  many  but  never  touched  by  love 
herself,  driving  men  to  distraction  but  a  perfect  stranger  to  per- 
sonal happiness.  During  the  course  of  the  film,  three  very  dif- 
ferent men  fall  in  love  with  her:  a  celebrated  bullfighter;  the 
world's  fastest  racing  car  driver  (who  Pandora,  in  a  typical  whim, 
refuses  to  consider  marrying  until  he  pushes  the  vehicle  in  ques- 
tion off  a  goddamn  cliff!);  and  a  mysterious  yachtsman, 
Hendrick  van  der  Zee  (played  by  James  Mason),  who  Pandora 
stumbles  upon  during  a  nude  midnight  swim  in  the  bay. 

That  yachtsman,  it  turns  out,  is  the  celebrated  Flying 
Dutchman,  a  sixteenth-century  sea  captain  who  got  himself  in  big 
trouble  with  the  powers  that  be  by  first  murdering  his  wife  for 
unfaithfulness  without  giving  her  so  much  as  a  chance  to  prove 
her  innocence,  and  then  blaspheming  against  God  for  making 
women  so  fair  and  so  treacherous. 

As  punishment,  he  was  doomed  to  live  a  ghostly  existence, 
sailing  alone  on  the  seas  of  the  world.  Every  seven  years  he  was 
permitted  to  live  among  men  for  a  short  period  of  time,  and  if  he 
was  able  to  find  a  woman  who  loved  him  enough  to  give  up  her 
life  for  him,  his  punishment  would  end  and  he  would  be  permit- 
ted to  die.  Can  the  carefree  Pandora  Reynolds  fall  in  love  and 
become  unselfish  enough  to  fill  that  rather  tall  order?  Honey,  do 
you  even  have  to  ask? 

The  man  who  concocted  this  supernatural  romance  was  one  of 
Hollywood's  more  curious  writer-directors,  Albert  Lewin.  An  ex- 
ecutive at  Metro  who'd  been  very  close  to  wonder-boy  produc- 
tion chief  Irving  Thalberg,  Lewin  had  directed  a  pair  of  fairly 
arty  films  for  the  studio,  The  Picture  of  Dorian  Gray  and  The 
Moon  and  Sixpence.  He  knew  that  this  particular  tale  was  much 
too  noncommercial  for  MGM,  so  he  left  the  studio  to  do  it,  ask- 
ing that  they  loan  me  out  to  him  as  settlement  of  his  contract. 
Metro  being  Metro,  they  didn't  hesitate  for  a  minute. 

Al  was  famous,  if  that  is  the  right  word,  for  asking  for  an 
ungodly  number  of  retakes.  One  story  had  it  that  on  Dorian 
Gray  he  asked  for  one  hundred  and  ten  retakes  and  ended  up 
using  number  four.  He  used  the  same  technique  on  this  picture, 
and  one  day  I  had  to  say  to  him,  "Al,  do  you  think  I  could  go  to 
the  bathroom  after  the  eighty-first  take?" 

Painstaking  as  he  was,  Al  caused  nowhere  near  the  problems 
for  me  that  toreador-turned-actor  Mario  Cabre  did.  Mario 



played  Juan  Montalvo,  my  bullfighter  lover,  in  the  picture,  and 
his  ambition  was  to  continue  the  role  in  real  life.  Unfortunately, 
Mario  got  carried  away  confusing  his  onstage  and  offstage  roles. 
In  every  country  in  the  world,  you  find  men  who  are  pains  in  the 
ass.  Mario  was  a  Spanish  pain  in  the  ass,  better  at  self-promotion 
than  either  bullfighting  or  love. 

Yes,  Mario  was  handsome,  and  macho  as  only  a  Latin  knows 
how  to  be,  but  he  was  also  brash,  conceited,  noisy,  and  totally 
convinced  that  he  was  the  only  man  in  the  world  for  me.  Now, 
everyone  else  in  the  world  seemed  to  know  that  I  was  totally  in 
love  with  Frank  Sinatra  and  no  one  else  but  Frank  Sinatra.  We 
suffered  agonies  trying  to  tell  each  other  how  much  we  loved  one 
another  during  the  first  weeks  of  filming,  what  with  the  hours  it 
sometimes  took  for  our  transatlantic  calls  to  come  through,  and 
the  faraway  voice  at  the  bottom  of  the  bathtub  once  the  connec- 
tion was  made.  But  Frank  supplemented  his  affection  with  daily 
letters  and  telegrams,  and  we  had  arranged  before  I  left  that  he 
would  travel  to  Tossa  for  a  two-  or  three-day  visit. 

This  all  sounds  very  reasonable,  but  reason  didn't  always  rule 
my  actions  in  those  days.  I  made  a  single  mistake,  and  it  turned 
into  a  blunder  of  major  proportions.  Because  after  one  of  those 
romantic,  star-filled,  dance-filled,  booze-filled  Spanish  nights,  I 
woke  up  to  find  myself  in  bed  with  Mario  Cabre. 

That  was  the  one  and  only  time.  Not  that  it  mattered.  Because 
Mario  was  ready,  willing,  and  all  too  able  to  broadcast  his  good 
fortune  to  the  entire  free  world.  Someone  had  passed  on  to  him 
the  concept  that  there  is  no  such  thing  as  bad  publicity:  if  you 
want  to  be  famous  you've  got  to  get  into  the  headlines.  And  what 
greater  opportunity  could  he  have  than  an  attempt  to  replace 
Frank  in  my  affections?  His  motivation  was  cynical  self-interest. 
His  declamatory  rhetoric  about  this  great  passion  in  his  life,  his 
love  for  me  and  mine  for  him,  made  headlines  in  Spain,  America, 
all  over  the  world,  and  that's  all  he  cared  about.  He  gave  inter- 
views saying  I  was  "the  woman  I  love  with  all  the  strength  in  my 
soul,"  wrote  the  most  idiotic  love  poems  imaginable,  and  then 
marched  off  to  recite  them  at  the  American  embassy  in  Madrid. 

Initially,  I  suppose  I  thought  this  was  vaguely  amusing,  and 
since  we  played  lovers  in  the  same  film,  no  one  was  exactly  en- 
couraging me  to  come  out  and  publicly  say  he  was  a  nuisance 
and  a  jerk.  But  when  he  started  to  involve  Frank  in  his  she- 



nanigans,  saying  he  would  not  leave  Spain  alive  if  he  came  on 
that  visit,  Mario  became  a  major  pest. 

As  the  guy  hardly  ever  left  my  side  and  was  constantly  warning 
me  of  his  intentions,  I  took  Mario's  threat  seriously.  To  him,  my 
feelings  were  of  little  consequence.  He  was  sure  a  woman  would 
naturally  fly  into  the  arms  of  the  stronger,  dominant  male,  and 
that  he  could  believe  that  sort  of  crap  was  typical  of  the  man. 
Still,  I  think  poor  Al  Lewin  was  a  little  nervous,  too.  Because 
when  Frank  did  fly  in  to  see  me  in  early  May,  Al  saw  to  it  that 
Mario  was  involved  in  some  second-unit  shooting  many  miles 
away  in  Gerona. 

Though  we  were  hounded  as  usual  by  the  press,  Frank  and  I 
enjoyed  our  two  days  of  romance  in  Tossa  del  Mar,  and  I  looked 
forward  to  more  when  I  would  be  in  London  for  exteriors  on 
Pandora  and  Frank  would  be  in  concert  for  a  week  or  so  at  the 
Palladium.  But  Mario  had  scenes  in  London,  too,  and  he  and  his 
cuadrilla,  the  four  members  of  his  ex-bullfighting  team  who  were 
part  of  his  inevitable  macho  entourage,  arrived  soon  after  I  did. 

By  this  time,  perhaps  because  he  feared  his  fame  might  plum- 
met as  quickly  as  it  had  risen,  Mario's  demand  for  publicity  had 
ballooned  beyond  all  reason.  He  went  so  far  as  refusing  to  go  out 
to  the  MGM  studios  for  his  scenes  unless  I  was  with  him.  I  sput- 
tered to  Al  Lewin,  "But  he  wants  me  to  go  in  the  damn  car  with 
him  even  on  days  when  Fm  not  working*" 

Al  nodded,  sighed,  and  patted  my  arm. 

"Be  a  good  girl,  Ava.  Go  with  him.  Humor  him.  Let's  get  the 
goddamn  movie  finished  and  then  we  can  get  rid  of  the  son  of  a 
bitch.  Do  it  for  me,  Ava." 

I  did  it  for  Al.  And  Mario  was  finally  getting  the  message.  His 
English  was  negligible,  and  London  did  not  smile  on  phony  love- 
sick matadors.  He  left  London  and,  thank  God,  I  never  saw  him 
again.  When  I  headed  back  to  Hollywood,  whatever  regrets  I  had 
about  leaving  Europe  behind  had  absolutely  nothing  to  do  with 



he  year  1950  was  not  a  banner  one  as  far 
as  Hollywood  was  concerned.  On  the  one 
hand,  the  Joe  McCarthy— inspired  black- 
list was  beginning  to  wreck  people's  lives  and  careers,  and  on  the 
other,  the  emergence  of  TV  as  a  powerful  entertainment  medium 
attacked  the  box  office  like  a  plague.  Figures  are  not  my  strong 
point,  but  I've  read  that  from  a  high  of  ninety  million  in  1948, 
movie  theater  admissions  plummeted  to  seventy  million  in  1949 
and  dropped  even  further  to  sixty  million  in  1950,  with  the  bot- 
tom still  nowhere  in  sight. 

Not  only  was  MGM,  all  those  damn  stars  notwithstanding, 
vulnerable  to  this  slide,  it  suffered  most  of  all  in  this  period, 
going  through  its  worst  years  since  the  Depression.  The  studio 
had  only  one  film  among  the  top  twenty  hits  of  the  1940s  and 
early  1950s,  and  that  was  the  expensive  costume  drama  Quo 
Vadis.  Partly  as  a  result,  the  old  lion  himself,  Mr.  Louis  B. 
Mayer,  resigned  in  1951  in  a  dispute  with  the  studio's  new  chief 
of  production,  Dore  Schary. 

If  there  was  a  bright  light  for  Metro  during  those  days,  it  was 
in  the  glorious  Technicolor  musicals  turned  out  by  the  studio's 
Arthur  Freed  unit.  So  when  I  was  told  that  I  was  to  have  a  key 
part  in  producer  Freed's  latest  opus,  Show  Boat,  to  begin  shoot- 
ing in  mid-November  1950,  I  was  certainly  pleased.  After  all, 
even  I  knew  that  this  story  of  women  who  love  well  but  not 
wisely  was  one  of  the  great  musicals  of  the  century. 

Show  Boat  started  out  as  an  Edna  Ferber  novel  dealing  with 



three  generations  of  the  Hawks  family,  from  Captain  Andy  to 
daughter  Magnolia  to  granddaughter  Kim,  all  of  whose  lives  re- 
volve around  a  showboat  cruising  up  and  down  the  Mississippi 
in  the  late  nineteenth  century.  It  was  the  great  Flo  Ziegfeld  him- 
self who  saw  the  theatrical  possibilities  in  the  book,  and  who 
convinced  Oscar  Hammerstein  II  and  Jerome  Kern  (whose 
daughter  Elizabeth  was  an  earlier  wife  of  Artie  Shaw's!)  to  do  the 
words  and  music. 

The  show  opened  on  Broadway  in  late  December  1927,  and 
with  songs  like  "Bill,"  "Can't  Help  Loving  That  Man"  and3  of 
course,  "OP  Man  River,"  proved  a  real  Christmas  present  for 
New  Yorkers.  It  also  established  Helen  Morgan  as  a  star  with  her 
performance  as  Julie  Laverne,  the  singer  with  a  touch  of  black 
blood  whose  attempt  to  pass  for  white  has  the  kind  of  tragic 
consequences  the  poor  South  was  famous  for. 

Even  then,  it  didn't  take  Hollywood  long  to  see  the  movie  pos- 
sibilities in  this  story.  Universal  did  a  version  in  1929,  but  unfor- 
tunately, with  the  film  practically  completed,  sound  came  in  and 
gave  everyone  fits.  The  result  was  a  half-sound,  half-silent  hybrid 
that  made  nobody  particularly  happy. 

Then,  in  1936,  James  Whale,  who'd  made  his  reputation  by 
turning  Boris  Karloff  into  Frankenstein,  surprised  everyone,  per- 
haps even  himself,  by  doing  a  very  creditable  version  that  gave 
the  peerless  Paul  Robeson  a  chance  to  sing  an  unforgettable  "OP 
Man  River." 

By  the  time  MGM  got  hold  of  the  property,  they  thought  the 
show's  central  story,  a  star-crossed  love  affair  between  Captain 
Andy's  daughter  Magnolia  and  gambler/turned  actor/turned 
gambler  Gaylord  Ravenal,  would  be  perfect  for  Nelson  Eddy  and 
Jeanette  MacDonald.  That  never  worked  out,  however;  the  pro- 
ject got  postponed,  and  Freed  and  director  George  Sidney  ended 
up  with  Kathryn  Grayson  and  Howard  Keel  in  those  roles.  As  for 
Joe,  the  man  who  gets  to  sing  "OP  Man  River,"  they  cast  Wil- 
liam Warfield,  someone  who'd  rarely  attempted  anything  but 
classical  music  before. 

Freed,  Sidney,  and  screenwriter  John  Lee  Mahin  also  deter- 
mined that  a  restructuring  of  the  show's  plot  was  in  order.  No 
longer  would  Gaylord  and  Magnolia  be  separated  for  over 
twenty  years — movie  audiences  were  deemed  too  impatient  to 
stand  for  that.  And  Julie  Laverne,  the  beautiful  half-caste,  would 



not  only  become  a  running  character,  helping  to  unify  the 
sprawling  time  frame,  but  also  be  instrumental  in  reuniting  the 
parted  lovers. 

All  of  which  meant  that  the  part  of  songstress  Julie  Laverne, 
"the  little  sweetheart  of  the  South,"  was  going  to  be  quite  a 
plum.  Judy  Garland,  Metro's  musical  star,  would  have  been  ev- 
eryone's first  choice,  but  Judy's  increasing  health  problems  had 
led  the  studio  to  scrap  her  contract.  Dore  Schary  wanted  Dinah 
Shore,  of  all  people,  to  play  the  role,  while  my  own  personal 
choice  would  have  been  Lena  Home.  I've  always  thought  that 
she,  along  with  Greta  Garbo  and  Katharine  Hepburn,  was  one  of 
the  three  most  beautiful  women  in  the  world.  She  was  really  bom 
for  this  part.  She  would  have  been  perfect  for  it,  and  not  only 
that,  she  was  a  close  friend  and  neighbor  of  mine  in  tree-shaded 
Nichols  Canyon. 

George  Sidney,  however,  wanted  me.  He'd  been  the  MGM  ex- 
ecutive who'd  viewed  my  first  test  and  approved  my  being 
shipped  out  from  New  York,  and  he  saw  qualities  in  me,  includ- 
ing the  chance  to  use  someone  who  was  really  from  the  South 
and  understood  Julie's  situation,  that  made  me  seem  right  for  the 
part.  Not  to  mention  the  fact  that  I  was  getting  increasingly  pop- 
ular. By  the  end  of  1950,  MGM's  publicity  department  was  send- 
ing out  black-and-white  photos  of  me  to  the  tune  of  three 
thousand  requests  per  week,  a  figure  that  only  Esther  Williams 

But  if  you  think  everybody  jumped  up  and  down  at  the  chance 
to  use  me  this  way,  you'd  better  think  again.  The  studio  brass, 
the  gossip  columnists,  everyone  thought  giving  me  this  kind  of  a 
plum  role  was  a  mistake.  However,  George  was  determined,  and 
I  got  the  part,  which  turned  out  to  be  one  of  the  few  I  rather 

Having  cast  me,  George  turned  me  over  to  his  wife,  Lillian 
Burns,  Metro's  chief  drama  coach.  A  very  important  post  because 
you  didn't  have  to  know  much  more  about  acting  than  you  did 
about  differential  calculus  to  become  a  star  at  MGM.  As  I've  said 
before,  you  came  under  Lillian's  purview  only  when  you  reached 
the  level  of  speaking  parts,  and  as  your  roles  grew  more  impor- 
tant, so  did  your  time  with  her. 

Lillian  was  slender  and  dark  and  volatile.  She  loved  teaching 
and  she  loved  talking  about  everything  from  actors  and  acting  to 



jewelry  to  the  whole  business  of  moviemaking.  And,  Jesus,  in 
those  days,  I  thought  Lillian  could  play  any  part  ten  times  better 
than  I  could.  She  said  she  was  struck  by  my  beauty,  and  she's 
said  that  it  was  "like  a  piece  of  Dresden,  so  fine  and  pure,  it 
struck  you  right  in  the  heart."  But  to  play  Julie,  more  than 
beauty  was  going  to  be  needed. 

While  Lillian  was  working  with  me,  Metro's  ace  production 
people  were  seeing  to  the  construction  of  the  stern-wheeler 
Cotton  Blossom,  which,  at  a  cost  of  over  one  hundred  thousand 
dollars,  was  for  quite  a  while  the  most  expensive  single  prop  ever 
made.  Originally,  the  film's  exteriors  were  going  to  be  shot  on 
location  around  Natchez  and  Vicksburg,  but  once  it  turned  out 
that  the  weather  would  be  wrong,  Metro  opted  to  use  its  own 
durable  back  lot  instead.  The  ten-million-gallon  Tarzan  Jungle 
Lake  was  drained  and  this  enormous  triple-decked,  one-hundred- 
seventy-one-foot-long,  fifty-seven-foot-high  boat  was  built  on  top 
of  metal  pontoons,  so  it  could  actually  float  up  and  down  the 
back-lot  version  of  the  Mississippi. 

During  the  shooting,  Kathryn  Grayson,  Howard  Keel,  and  I 
got  along  with  each  other  extremely  well.  After  each  day's  shoot- 
ing we  would  meet  in  one  of  the  dressing  rooms  and,  ignoring 
one  of  Metro's  cardinal  rules,  smuggle  in  enough  tequila  to  send 
us  back  home  in  the  best  of  humor.  Howard  was  young,  hand- 
some, and  full  of  laughter.  He  had  that  wonderful  rich  voice,  and 
Kathryn  matched  him  note  for  note.  When  it  came  to  my  own 
singing,  however,  the  studio  ran  me  so  ragged  that  I  never  did 
forgive  them. 

Now,  I  can  sing.  I  do  not  expect  to  be  taken  for  Maria  Callas, 
Ella  Fitzgerald,  or  Lena  Home,  but  I  can  carry  a  tune  well 
enough  for  the  likes  of  Artie  Shaw  to  feel  safe  offering  to  put  me 
in  front  of  his  orchestra.  But  since  Julie's  two  songs,  "Bill"  and 
"Can't  Help  Loving  That  Man,"  are  so  beloved  by  everyone,  I 
decided  to  work  as  hard  as  I  could  to  fit  the  bill.  I  even  found  this 
marvelous  teacher,  who'd  worked  with  both  Lena  and  Dorothy 
Dandridge,  and  we  slaved  away  for  several  weeks  and  produced 
a  test  record  of  those  two  songs. 

Then,  rather  nervously,  1  took  my  life  into  my  hands  and  gave 
the  record  to  Arthur  Freed  himself,  God  Almighty  of  musical 
productions.  I  don't  think  the  son  of  a  bitch  ever  even  listened  to 
it.  He  just  put  it  on  a  shelf  and  delivered  the  usual  studio  ul- 



timatum:  "Now,  listen,  Ava,  you  can't  sing  and  you're  among 
professional  singers."  So  that  settled  that  one. 

Or  did  it?  Because  the  singer  they'd  chosen  to  dub  my  singing 
had  a  high,  rather  tiny  voice,  totally  inappropriate  when  it  was 
paired  with  my  own  speaking  voice.  The  studio  spent  thousands 
and  thousands  of  dollars  and  used  the  full  MGM  orchestra  trying 
to  get  this  poor  girl  right.  I  mean,  there  was  nothing  wrong  with 
her  in  the  first  place,  except  for  the  obvious  fact  that  she  wasn't 

Finally,  they  got  Annette  Warren,  this  gal  who  used  to  do  a  lot 
of  my  singing  off-screen,  and  they  substituted  her  voice  for  mine. 
So  my  Southern  twang  suddenly  stops  talking  and  her  soprano 
starts  singing — hell,  what  a  mess. 

When  it  came  to  the  album  version  of  the  movie,  things  got 
even  worse.  Being  a  great  fan  of  Lena's,  I  had  copied  her  phras- 
ing, note  for  note,  on  my  test  record.  So  they  took  my  record 
imitating  Lena  and  put  earphones  on  her  so  she  could  sing  the 
songs  copying  me  copying  her. 

But  Metro  soon  found  out  that  they  couldn't  legally  release  the 
album  with  my  name  and  image,  as  they  called  it,  without  my 
voice  being  part  of  the  package.  So  then  I  used  earphones  to  try 
to  record  my  voice  over  her  voice,  which  had  been  recorded  over 
my  voice  imitating  her.  I  did  it  note  for  note,  they  wiped  Lena's 
voice  off  the  album,  and  the  record  was  a  success.  That's  the  way 
they  worked  in  those  days.  And  I  still  get  goddamn  royalties  on 
the  thing! 

Considering  all  of  this,  my  reviews  on  Show  Boat  were  excel- 
lent, really  better  than  I  expected,  except  for  a  busybody  from 
The  New  Yorker  who  said  that  I  was  "subjected  to  such  close 
scrutiny  by  the  camera  that  [my]  handsome  face  often  takes  on 
the  attributes  of  a  relief  map  of  Yugoslavia."  But  the  success 
aside,  my  anger  about  how  callously  Metro  had  treated  me  inten- 
sified the  fury  I'd  been  feeling  toward  them  throughout  my  ca- 

Frankly,  MGM  was  never  the  right  studio  for  me.  When  I'd 
done  The  Bribe,  it  was  my  first  starring  role  in  seven  years  there. 
The  studio  never  bothered  to  package  me.  They  never  bought  a 
property  for  me.  In  fact,  they  had  so  little  interest  in  me  they  just 
about  never  wanted  me  around.  The  idea  was,  "Toss  her  out, 
lend  her  out,  and  give  her  away!" 



And,  except  for  Lillian  Burns  from  time  to  time,  I  only  re- 
member a  single  example  of  someone  caring  about  the  quality  of 
my  work.  In  the  breaks  during  the  filming  of  The  Bribe,  Charles 
Laughton,  one  of  my  costars,  used  to  take  me  aside  and  read  me 
passages  out  of  the  Bible,  then  make  me  read  them  back  with  the 
right  cadences  and  stresses.  He  was  a  brilliant  classical  actor  ab- 
sorbed by  his  craft  and  loving  it.  And  he  was  the  only  one  in  all 
my  film  years  who  took  the  time  and  went  out  of  his  way  to  try 
and  make  an  actress  out  of  me. 

In  fact,  if  Metro  did  anything,  it  was  to  stand  in  the  way  of  my 
learning  anything.  I  remember  Greg  Peck  asking  me  if  I  wanted 
to  do  a  part  in  a  play  they  were  doing  in  La  Jolla,  just  to  work 
out,  to  learn.  "Okay,"  I  said,  "if  I  can  start  with  something  very 

But  before  I  could  commit  I  had  to  ask  Metro.  "Small  part? 
Not  the  lead?  Of  course  you  can't  do  that,5'  I  was  told.  "You 
either  play  the  lead  or  nothing." 

"But  I  can't  possibly  play  the  lead,"  I  said.  Little  did  they  care. 
And  that  was  the  last  time  I  allowed  myself  to  even  think  about 
learning  on  the  stage. 

But  it  was  those  loan-outs  to  other  studios  that  infuriated  me 
the  most  about  my  position  at  MGM.  Even  as  my  salary  was 
rising  (I  was  getting  around  fifty  thousand  dollars  a  year  at  this 
time,  and  it  was  to  creep  up  higher)  they  lent  me  to  other  com- 
panies at  salaries  five  and  six  times  better  than  I  was  getting — 
and  a  percentage  of  the  gross  on  top  of  that.  They  got  well  paid 
for  giving  me  to  those  other  studios,  but  I  wasn't  allowed  to 
share  in  the  wealth. 

Plus  the  atmosphere  at  Metro  was  stifling,  killing.  When  I  ap- 
peared for  Henry  Wallace  when  he  ran  for  president  in  1948,  Mr. 
Mayer  called  me  in  and  told  me  I  had  to  stop.  He  told  me  that 
Katharine  Hepburn  had  ruined  her  career  doing  things  like  that. 
They  liked  to  terrify  you,  to  threaten  that  if  you  didn't  do  what 
they  said,  they  would  ruin  your  career,  too.  And  they  could  do  it. 
No  one  ever  thanked  me  during  all  those  years  when  I  was  the 
good  girl  on  the  lot.  I  felt  like  I  was  in  slavery.  They  may  have 
found  me,  but  I  came  to  feel  I  owed  them,  and  the  business  they 
represented,  nothing  at  all. 



va  was  like  my  younger  sister;  she  and  I 
were  spiritually  akin.  The  main  thing  is 
that  she  was  Southern.  Though  I  was 
born  in  the  East,  I  was  sent  South  when  I  was  five  years  old  and  I 
lived  around  the  kind  of  people  that  she  lived  around.  Ava  was 
not  one  of  those  la-di-da  Southern  ladies.  She  was  of  a  breed 
that,  when  they're  wonderful,  really  are.  She  didn't  feel  she  was 
born  to  rule.  She  felt  that  life  was  crappy  and  that  a  lot  of  people 
got  mistreated  for  weird  reasons,  and  she  liked  to  see  people  like 
each  other.  She  was  a  real  good  dame. 

Ava  and  I  also  liked  the  same  men,  musicians  mostly,  black 
and  white.  We  often  had  been  hit  on,  or  had  hit  the  same  guys. 
We'd  show  up  at  parties  on  the  other  side  of  town,  very  crowded, 
a  lot  of  musicians  and  showgirls,  not  any  MGM  people.  At  one 
of  them,  where  we  really  got  down  to  it,  we  both  wound  up 
under  the  piano.  We  didn't  talk  about  the  business;  we  talked 
about  men.  Like  Artie  Shaw  and  his  mental  domination,  which 
drove  us  both  crazy.  We  laughed  because  he  liked  his  women  to 
read  a  lot  of  books.  And  he'd  pick  the  books,  but  she  wasn't 
ready  for  them.  It's  kind  of  like  a  child  of  nature  being  shut  up  in 
a  room  to  study. 

We  lived  near  each  other  in  Nichols  Canyon,  and  one  day  we 
had  a  very  long  discussion  about  men.  She  was  seeing  someone, 
and  seeing  someone  else.  And  the  someone  else  was  a  guy  who 
had  a  marvelous  voice,  Howard  Duff.  And  the  point  being  that 
Howard  was  a  fantastic  lover.  And  though  she  liked  the  other 



person,  we  were  both  regretful  that  frequently  the  finest  lovers 
were  not  the  ones  you  really  loved. 

People  would  say,  "Oh,  she  drank  so  much  whiskey."  I  don't 
know  about  that.  I  think  she  drank  as  some  women  do.  I  think 
she  drank  because  she  was  bored  with  people  often.  I  think  it 
upset  her  that  men  that  she  did  like  were  not  as  strong  as  they 
could  have  been.  And  she  liked  the  ones  who  were  not  too  intimi- 
dated by  her.  She  didn't  emasculate  anyone,  but  she  was  an  equal 
partner.  And  many  men  at  that  time  didn't  like  that. 

Another  big  problem  was  that  both  of  us  had  to  like  who  we 
went  to  bed  with.  And  when  it  came  to  the  power  people  who 
could  have  perhaps  done  tremendous  favors  for  us,  we  thought 
they  were  ugly  and  unlovable.  She  was  just  a  wild,  good-looking 
girl  that  they  wanted  to  harness,  and  dominate.  "Well,  she's  a 
kook,"  they  said.  "She's  too  dumb  to  know  what  she's  missing." 
But  she  knew  what  she  was  missing. 

Because  of  her  looks,  Ava  was  awe-inspiring  to  the  outside 
world.  She  didn't  consciously  use  herself,  it  was  there.  But  it  was 
intimidating  to  other  women.  And  she  was  not  a  girlie-girlie, 
chummy,  let's  go  house-hunting  and  decorating  or  have  cocktails 
with  the  girls  type.  She  was  an  unfeminine,  very  feminine 

And  Ava  had  great  inner  warmth  that,  for  instance,  I  never 
saw  in  Lana.  Lana  was  a  little  more  aware  of  being  a  star.  I  don't 
think  Ava  thought  about  it  that  way.  She  was  down.  She  was 
Ava,  not  Ava  Gardner  the  star.  She  never  believed  that  the  image 
that  they  saw  was  what  she  really  was.  And  she  resented  that  that 
image  made  people  expect  something,  when  she  wanted  to  be 

But  because  of  who  she  was,  Ava  could  never  get  but  so  much 
freedom.  When  I  met  Hedy  Lamarr  after  one  of  my  shows  she 
said,  "Wasn't  it  wonderful  at  MGM?  Our  clothes  were  chosen, 
we  didn't  have  to  think  for  ourselves,  Howard  Strickling  took 
care  of  everything  we  had  to  say."  And  I  was  sort  of  punchy 
from  that  remark,  because  /  knew  that  it  was  half-horrible. 

You  want  to  be  able  to  think  for  yourself,  and  Ava  always  did. 
She  hated  the  fact  that  we  were  made  to  feel  like  we  were  being 
possessed  by  somebody,  or  that  we  were  owned  body  and  soul  if 
we  wanted  to  work.  MGM  created  a  certain  name,  but  they 
didn't  prepare  you  for  real  life.  I  mean,  what  do  you  say  when 



Howard  Strickling  wasn't  around  and  you  had  to  get  an  abor- 

We  talked  about  the  nonsense  about  Show  Boat,  the  fact  that 
she  was  going  to  do  it  and  I  wanted  it.  "I'm  sick  of  these  ses- 
sions," she'd  say,  "I  don't  know  how  to  sing."  The  reasoning 
behind  it  made  her  angry,  for  my  sake.  "Forget  it,"  I  said.  We 
knew,  we  understood  why  it  happened.  So  there  was  no  friction 
about  it.  We  were  both  very  logical.  It  was  a  big  laugh. 

If  Ava  came  to  you,  you  couldn't  help  but  like  her,  because  she 
wasn't  competing  with  anybody.  She  walked  a  mile  in  every- 
body's shoes.  She  really  did. 



fter  Show  Boat  was  finished,  it  began  to 
finally  look  like  my  own  personal  show 
was  about  to  go  into  production.  On 
May  29,  1951,  Nancy  Sinatra's  attorneys  made  the  announce- 
ment Frank  and  I  had  been  waiting  for:  she'd  agreed  to  a  divorce. 
Hallelujah!  Everything  would  be  simple  from  here  on  in.  Or  so 
we  were  in  love  enough  to  think.  I  just  never  seemed  to  learn  that 
nothing  was  ever  going  to  be  simple  between  Mr.  Sinatra  and 

Take  the  time  I  said  to  him,  "Honey,  if  we're  going  to  get 
married,  don't  you  think  it  would  be  a  good  idea  if  I  met  your 

The  blue  eyes  flashed  in  my  direction. 

"No,"  said  Frank. 

"Why  not?" 

"Out  of  the  question." 

"Why  the  fuck  not?"  I  said,  my  temper  heating  up.  After  all, 
I'd  already  taken  Frank  down  to  North  Carolina  to  meet  my 
family,  and  that  had  gone  very  well. 

"Because  I  haven't  spoken  to  them  for  two  years,  and  I  don't 
intend  to  start  now." 

"This  is  your  own  mother  and  father  we're  talking  about?" 


Well,  it  didn't  seem  right  to  me. 

The  split  between  Frank  and  his  parents  had  come  about  ap- 
parently over  a  matter  of  finances.  I  didn't  go  into  it.  It  was  none 



of  my  business.  What  was  my  business  was  meeting  Marty  and 
Dolly  Sinatra.  In  North  Carolina,  when  you  were  contemplating 
marriage,  it  was  usual  to  meet  the  mother  and  father  of  the  bride- 
groom. That  was  a  pleasure  I  didn't  intend  to  miss  if  I  could  help 
it.  And  naturally  I  thought  I  could. 

I  kept  nibbling  away  at  Frank,  and  the  next  time  we  were  in 
New  York  together  I  said,  "Well,  if  you're  not  going  to  call  your 
parents,  I  am." 

Frank  didn't  make  a  big  protest  so  I  called,  and  he  said  with  a 
certain  grudging  interest,  "What  did  she  say?55 

I  said,  "We're  invited  to  an  Italian  dinner  in  Hoboken  tonight. 

"Okay,"  said  Frank. 

Hoboken  bears  little  resemblance  to  Beverly  Hills.  It  sits  on  the 
western  banks  of  the  Hudson  River,  directly  across  from  Man- 
hattan's spectacular  skyline.  When  the  Dutch  and  the  British 
showed  up,  it  was  nothing  but  Indians,  green  woods,  and  grass 
sloping  into  clear  water.  Then  God  knows  how  many  millions  of 
immigrants  arrived,  and  the  woods  were  turned  into  fine  houses 
for  the  first  German  merchants  and  later  into  crowded  tenements 
for  the  Irish  and  the  Italians.  It  was  a  city  of  narrow  streets,  out- 
door markets,  small  shops,  and  factories,  a  crowded,  vigorous, 
bustling  place.  The  prevailing  local  philosophy  was:  If  you  make 
the  dough,  get  up  and  go. 

Dolly  Sinatra  was  a  survivor.  If  you  lived  in  Hoboken  in  the 
twenties  and  thirties,  as  she  had,  you  knew  what  hard  times 
meant.  I  took  one  look  at  Dolly  and  saw  where  Frank  got  it  all 
from:  the  blue  eyes,  the  fair  hair,  the  smile,  the  essential  charm, 
cockiness,  and  determination.  She  took  one  look  and  hugged  me 
like  her  own  daughter.  She  always  said  I'd  brought  her  son  back 
to  her. 

Frank  had  bought  his  parents  a  house;  no  one  could  call  it 
pretty  but  it  was  nice  enough  and  Dolly  was  very  proud  of  it. 
Marty  Sinatra,  Frank's  father,  was  quieter,  withdrawn,  with  a 
nice  smile.  Dolly  set  the  pace;  Marty  nodded  and  followed. 

Dolly  showed  me  the  house,  every  inch  of  it,  and  was  it  clean? 
Oh,  my  God.  I  mean  Frank  was  the  cleanest  man  I  ever  knew, 
forever  changing  his  clothes  and  underwear,  always  showering 
and  washing.  If  I'd  caught  him  washing  the  soap  it  wouldn't  have 
suprised  me,  and  he  inherited  it  all  from  his  ma.  Every  room  had 



a  cross  or  a  resident  Jesus  Christ;  there  seemed  to  be  a  cross  on 
everything,  because  Dolly  was  deeply  into  the  Catholic  faith.  And 
of  course  Dolly  had  to  tell  me  all  about  Frank,  with  Frank 
squirming  at  every  word.  First  the  photograph  as  a  baby,  naked, 
weighing  fifteen  pounds.  His  grandmother  took  him  under  her 
care  when  he  was  bom?  because  the  doctor  thought  Dolly  was 
dying.  Poor  Frank  had  been  dragged  into  the  world  with  forceps 
and  apparently  was  almost  given  up  for  dead.  Grandma,  depend- 
able as  the  Tuscan  earth,  grabbed  him,  washed  him  under  the 
tap,  wrapped  him  in  a  blanket,  and  took  care  of  him  as  only 
grandmothers  know  how. 

Frank  was  getting  more  and  more  furious  as  Dolly  dragged  out 
album  after  album  of  cute  pictures  of  Frank  as  a  child,  dressed  up 
in  all  kinds  of  little  outfits.  Sweet  little  photos  that  mothers  trea- 
sure and  sons  would  like  to  stick  up  the  chimney. 

Both  Dolly  and  Marty  were  great  cooks,  and  one  of  the  large 
beds  was  covered  by  this  starched,  brilliantly  white  sheet,  which 
was  covered  in  turn  by  dozens  and  dozens  of  these  little  pasta 
shells,  uncooked,  the  ones  you  crinkle  up  with  your  fingers  and 
put  filling  in.  Dolly  spoke  about  four  or  five  Italian  dialects,  but 
you  wouldn't  even  guess  that  because  there  was  no  hint  of  an 
accent  in  her  voice.  Frank,  however,  never  spoke  a  word  of  Ital- 
ian. In  those  days,  Italian  immigrants  didn't  want  their  children 
to  speak  any  language  except  English. 

It  was  all  so  welcoming,  such  a  great  warm  Italian  household 
with  no  holding  back.  They  even  had  an  old  uncle,  either  her 
brother  or  Marty's,  living  with  them.  I  knew  Frank  had  been 
looking  at  me  very  carefully,  trying  to  sense  how  it  was  going, 
whether  I  was  approving  or  not,  his  face  reflecting  that  slight 
worry  you  have  when  you  want  someone  you  love  to  love  what 
you  love.  But  he  didn't  have  to  worry  about  me,  because  my 
family  was  poor,  too,  and  I  could  relate  to  his  folks  as  if  they 
were  my  own.  And  I  could  see  that  Frank  was  getting  into  it  as 
well,  relaxing  and  beginning  to  enjoy  the  intimacy  created  by 
people  who  loved,  really  loved,  with  nothing  held  back. 

Back  in  Los  Angeles,  Frank  and  I  divided  our  time  between  an 
apartment  we  had  near  the  ocean  in  Pacific  Palisades  and  Frank's 
house  in  Palm  Springs.  We  also  vacillated  between  happiness  at 
our  impending  wedding  and  misery  as  Nancy  took  longer  and 
longer  to  actually  file  for  that  damn  divorce.  And  I  was  still  reel- 



ing  from  my  first  immersion  in  no-holds-barred  journalistic  cov- 
erage. Nothing  we  did  was  too  inconsequential  for  the  ever- 
present  swarm  of  reporters  and  photographers  to  feed  on  like 
bees  at  a  honeypot.  It's  very  easy  to  say  that  we  should  have 
accepted  this  as  the  price  of  fame,  but  that  turns  out  to  be  a  hell 
of  a  tall  order  to  live  up  to  when  you  practically  can't  go  to  the 
bathroom  without  finding  yourself  on  page  one. 

By  the  end  of  August,  Nancy  still  hadn't  filed,  and  we  were 
both  nervous  and  on  edge,  desperately  in  need  of  a  vacation.  We 
decided  to  get  away  to  Mexico,  which  in  those  days  was  hardly 
considered  a  prime  holiday  spot.  We  thought  we  could  sneak  in  a 
little  bit  of  peace  and  quiet.  Not  a  chance. 

The  chaos  started  at  the  Los  Angeles  airport,  when  reporters 
and  photographers  filled  the  tarmac  and  even  crowded  onto  the 
steps  of  the  plane,  treating  our  departure  like  a  goddamn  presi- 
dential visit.  At  El  Paso,  where  we  had  a  forty-five-minute  stop- 
over for  refueling,  reporters  crowded  onto  the  plane,  bombarding 
us  with  questions.  Things  were  quieter  in  Mexico  City,  but  the 
press  made  the  four  days  we  spent  at  Acapulco  not  very  pleasant. 
Nothing  anyone  in  their  right  mind  would  have  identified  as 
peace  and  quiet. 

A  Mexican  friend  of  Frank's,  who'd  made  his  money  in  Amer- 
ican baseball,  offered  us  the  use  of  his  private  plane  for  the  jour- 
ney back  to  L.A.  Since  a  car  could  be  driven  right  onto  the 
runway  in  those  days,  we  hoped  to  be  able  to  avoid  the  press  and 
just  drive  home.  Talk  about  naive! 

It  was  dark  when  we  arrived,  but  a  horde  of  photographers 
were  gathered  anyway,  eager  to  pounce,  and  flashbulbs  were 
popping  as  we  scrambled  into  the  waiting  car.  Frank  took  the 
wheel  and,  given  that  there  was  a  crowd,  he  drove  quite  slowly. 
Our  windows  were  closed,  and  the  chances  of  getting  a  decent 
shot  through  the  glass  were  negligible.  One  of  the  photographers 
was  quick-witted  enough  to  realize  that  no  photos  meant  no 
story,  no  nothing.  And  as  we  drove  past  him,  he  leaned  across 
the  fender  and  hood  on  my  side,  deliberately  sliding  along  it  and 
throwing  himself  off.  I  was  so  indignant  I  rolled  down  the  win- 
dow and  shouted,  "I  saw  that,  buster." 

I  thought  what  I  saw  with  my  own  eyes  would  make  a  dif- 
ference, but  it  didn't.  The  story  went  around  the  world  that 
Frank  had  driven  straight  for  the  photographers  at  high  speed, 



taking  special  aim  at  my  sliding  friend.  He,  incidentally,  was 
quoted  as  saying  that  all  he  was  after  was  respect  for  the  press.  I 
love  that  line.  It  didn't  seem  to  me  that  the  press  was  doing  a 
whole  hell  of  a  lot  to  earn  respect  where  Frank  and  I  were  con- 

Though  I  don't  want  to  make  those  days  seem  worse  than  they 
were,  there  will  always  be  an  edge,  a  margin  of  unhappiness,  as- 
sociated with  them  in  my  mind.  We  were  desperately  in  love  and, 
what  with  drinks  with  friends  and  intimate  dinners  alone,  we 
tried  so  hard  to  make  each  other  happy.  But  Frank's  deep  depres- 
sion at  being  at  a  career  low,  and  the  realization  that  people  he'd 
once  thought  of  as  friends  were  pretty  good  at  kicking  him  when 
he  was  down  there,  was  not  good  for  us.  And  we  both  had  a 
terrible  tendency  to  needle  each  other's  weaknesses,  a  habit  that 
led  to  fallings  out,  like  one  that  Labor  Day  weekend,  that  often 
had  melodramatic,  not  to  say  dangerous,  consequences. 

It  all  started  innocently  enough,  with  a  phone  call  from  Frank 
saying  that  because  he  had  a  pair  of  singing  engagements  in  the 
area,  he'd  rented  a  house  on  Lake  Tahoe,  and  why  didn't  I  come 
by  and  check  it  out.  Delighted  at  the  opportunity  to  spend  time 
with  him  in  a  secluded,  romantic  spot,  I  bundled  Reenie  into  the 
car  with  me  and  roared  off  down  the  road. 

I  admit  I'm  not  the  world's  most  careful  driver.  Going  fast  just 
does  something  for  me;  and  Fd  already  plowed  through  a  snake 
and  a  rabbit  before  I  swerved  to  avoid  a  deer  on  a  lonesome 
stretch  of  road  near  Carson  City.  I  hit  something,  maybe  a  boul- 
der or  a  tree,  but  the  windshield  was  smashed,  the  car  wouldn't 
start,  and  since  all  I  knew  about  cars  was  that  if  you  put  gasoline 
in  them,  they  usually  go,  we  were  stuck  there.  It  was  dark,  it  was 
lonely,  there  wasn't  a  phone  booth  for  miles,  and  I  couldn't  re- 
member the  last  time  Fd  seen  another  car. 

"We  did  overtake  an  old  jalopy  a  couple  of  hours  ago/'  Reenie 
reminded  me. 

"Let's  hope  they  arrive  here  sooner  or  later,"  I  said. 

They  did.  Two  hours  later.  They  towed  us  into  Carson  City, 
where  Hank  Sanicola,  Frank's  man,  came  and  picked  us  up  and 
drove  us,  at  a  much  safer  speed,  to  Lake  Tahoe.  Now  at  twenty- 
two  miles  long  and  between  eight  and  twelve  miles  wide,  this  was 
no  small  lake.  Too  big,  you  might  have  thought,  for  anyone  to 
ever  disturb  its  peace.  And  you  would  have  been  wrong. 



That  was  the  day  we  decided  we  would  hire  a  boat  and  set  off 
for  picnicking  on  the  still  waters.  The  boat  was  beautiful,  long 
and  shining.  Hank  was  deputized  to  handle  the  steering  part  of 
the  trip,  as  Frank  and  I  were  far  too  busy  opening  more  than  our 
allotment  of  iced  champagne  and  drinking  it  down.  And  before 
we  knew  it,  Frank  and  I  were  in  a  shouting  match. 

The  cause,  as  usual,  was  jealousy.  Frank  had  always  allowed 
thoughts  of  Howard  Hughes  and  Artie  Shaw  to  get  to  him,  and 
just  to  make  him  more  miserable,  Pd  recently  confessed  about  my 
mindless  night  with  Mario  Cabre.  Don't  think  I  wanted  to.  I  tried 
to  evade  the  question,  change  the  subject  and  brush  it  aside,  but 
Frank  suspected  and  he  kept  at  me.  There'd  been  too  much  gos- 
sip for  him  not  to  suspect,  and  his  persistence  was  unnerving. 
Finally,  he  resorted  to  the  oldest  trick  in  the  book.  "Ava,  honey,'* 
he  said.  "It  doesn't  really  matter  to  me.  We've  all  fallen  into  the 
wrong  bed  some  time  or  other.  Just  tell  me  the  truth  and  we'll 
forget  all  about  it." 

That's  a  laugh.  So  I  told  him  and  he  never  forgave  me.  Ever. 

Then  that  day  on  the  lake,  with  the  sun  hot  on  our  faces, 
Frank  decided  to  pick  at  me.  "I  suppose,"  he  said  with  studied 
casualness,  "y°u  wish  you  were  out  here  with  Howard  Hughes." 

I  swallowed  a  whole  lot  of  champagne  in  one  gulp.  "Why  the 
fuck  should  I  wish  I  was  out  here  with  Howard  Hughes?" 

"Pll  bet  he's  got  a  bigger  boat  than  this,  doesn't  he?  That  guy's 
got  enough  bucks  to  buy  ten  boats  the  size  of  this  one." 

"I  don't  care  if  he  owns  the  fucking  Queen  Mary.  I'm  not 
sorry  I'm  not  with  him.  So  shut  up." 

"Don't  tell  me  to  shut  up." 

"Then  don't  tell  me  Pm  thinking  about  Howard  Hughes  when 
I'm  not  thinking  about  Howard  Hughes." 

Oh,  boy,  what  a  battle.  Screams,  shouts,  threats.  The  fact  that 
Reenie  and  Hank  Sanicola  were  also  on  the  boat  didn't  even  slow 
us  down.  Unfortunately,  our  shenanigans  distracted  Hank,  who 
probably  wasn't  much  of  a  sailor  in  the  first  place,  and  he 
promptly  ran  us  aground  near  the  shore,  tearing  a  sizable  hole  in 
the  bottom  of  the  boat  in  the  process.  Everyone  immediately 
waded  ashore  except  me.  For  some  alcohol-induced  reason — 
maybe  I'd  seen  Captains  Courageous  one  time  too  many — I'd 
decided  it  was  my  duty  to  stay  on  board  and  bale  the  goddamn 
thing  out. 



By  this  time,  Frank's  temper  had  reached  its  limits.  "Get  off 
that  fucking  boat  while  there's  still  time,  you  fucking  fool,"  he 
roared,  shaking  his  fist  in  exasperation. 

"Go  fuck  yourself,"  I  replied,  always  the  lady.  "I'm  staying 

It  was  about  that  time  that  I  discovered  that  this  fancy  boat 
was  stocked  with  a  monstrous  amount  of  toilet  paper.  Why  in 
the  name  of  God  the  owners  had  decided  to  store  so  much  on 
one  boat  Pll  never  know.  But  all  the  champagne  Pd  drunk  con- 
vinced me  that  this  wealth  must  be  shared  with  the  world.  So  I 
unwrapped  roll  after  roll  and  floated  them  all  off  in  the  general 
direction  of  Frank.  His  rage  was  now  off  the  charts,  and  he 
screamed  a  variety  of  curses  in  my  direction  that  even  I  found 
impressive,  but  nothing  he  said  deterred  me  from  my  appointed 

Eventually,  the  boat  began  to  sink  in  earnest,  and  I  carefully 
joined  Frank  on  the  shore,  carrying  with  me,  with  perfect  sur- 
vivor's instincts,  the  last  bottle  of  champagne  and  two  glasses. 
We  managed  to  get  the  bottle  open  and  sat  down  to  regard  the 
scene.  What  was  a  little  rumpus  between  lovers,  anyway?  We 
clinked  glasses,  laughed  and  made  up. 

But  battles  that  fierce  never  really  go  away.  And  just  a  few 
nights  later,  when  we  both  had  drunk  too  much,  Frank  made  an 
offhanded  remark  that  hurt  me  so  deeply  that  I  didn't  stop  to 
argue  or  shout  back,  I  just  left.  I  ran  out  into  the  darkness,  my 
bare  feet  heading  toward  the  lake.  The  slope  was  steep  down  to 
the  water  and  the  trees  were  thick  and  solid.  You've  got  to  be 
very  drunk,  very  lucky,  or  very  quick  on  your  feet  to  miss  them 
all,  and  I  was  a  combination  of  all  three.  Then  I  heard  someone 
running  behind  me,  trying  to  catch  up.  It  was  Reenie. 

I  stopped  and  we  both  sat  there  in  the  darkness.  We  didn't  say 
anything.  There  was  nothing  to  say.  Finally,  Reenie  said  in  a 
quiet,  resigned  voice,  "Come  on,  Miss  G.,  knock  it  off.  Why 
don't  we  just  go  home." 

That  was  the  best  idea  Pd  heard  in  days.  We  climbed  back  up 
the  hill,  got  our  bags  packed  and  into  the  newly  repaired  car,  and 
set  off  for  L.A.  It  was  well  after  midnight,  but  we  had  a  bottle  of 
sipping  bourbon  to  keep  us  warm  along  those  dark,  lonely  roads. 
I'd  been  full  of  love  and  anticipation  going  up;  now  I  was  full  of 



despair  going  back.  I'd  just  left  and  probably  lost  the  man  I 

Dawn  was  breaking  across  the  ocean  as  we  reached  the  house 
in  Pacific  Palisades  hours  later.  We  were  exhausted,  hung  over 
and  miserable.  We  stumbled  toward  our  respective  bedrooms, 
hungry  for  sleep,  when  the  telephone  began  to  ring.  I  tottered 
back  and  picked  it  up.  I  could  tell  by  the  sound  of  Hank 
Sanicola's  voice  that  this  was  for  real.  "Oh,  my  God,  Ava.  Hurry 
back.  Frank's  taken  an  overdose!" 

God  almighty!  In  the  Hampshire  House  in  New  York,  all  I'd 
had  to  do  was  race  through  a  couple  of  bedrooms.  Now  we  faced 
hours  of  driving  back  over  those  tortuous  roads. 

"Reenie,"  I  yelled.  "You  won't  believe  this.  We've  got  to  go 
back.  Now!" 

"We  nearly  killed  ourselves  driving  there,  and  we  did  the  same 
driving  back,"  Reenie  said.  "Third  time  might  be  unlucky!" 

That  made  sense.  "I'll  call  the  airport,"  I  said.  "We'll  catch  the 
next  flight." 

I  have  been  exasperated  with  Francis  Albert  Sinatra  many 
times  through  the  years,  but  never  more  so  than  on  that  morning 
when  I  returned  to  his  bedside  at  Lake  Tahoe. 

A  car  had  rushed  us  to  the  L.A.  airport.  A  car  had  rushed  us 
from  the  Nevada  airport  to  the  house  at  Lake  Tahoe.  Hank 
Sanicola  met  me  at  the  door.  He  looked  as  tired  out  and  worn  as 
I  felt.  I  had  difficulty  speaking. 

"How  is  he?"  I  said. 

"He's  okay,"  said  Hank. 

I  thought,  Thank  God!  I  ran  through  into  the  bedroom.  I 
looked  down  at  Frank  and  he  turned  his  sad  blue  eyes  to  look  at 

"I  thought  you'd  gone,"  he  said  weakly. 

I  wanted  to  punch  him,  I  really  did.  I  wanted  to  punch  him  as 
much  as  I'd  ever  wanted  to  punch  anybody.  Frank  had  tricked 
both  Reenie  and  me  back  to  his  bedside.  He'd  had  a  fine  rest, 
doctors  watching  over  him,  feeling  his  pulse  and  all  that  sort  of 
crap.  And  they  didn't  even  have  to  pump  his  stomach — he  hadn't 
taken  enough  phenobarbital  tablets  for  that.  Everybody  had  been 
up  all  night  except  Frank!  Hank  had  been  signaling  for  help  from 
all  over  the  U.S.A.,  Reenie  and  I  had  been  charging  back  and 
forth  across  the  mountains  like  demented  pigeons.  And  Frank 
was  just  turning  over,  waking  up,  and  saying,  "Hi,  kid." 


The  Larry  Tan  photo  that  started  my  movie  career. 

My  acting  debut  in  the  Brogden 
school's  first-grade  play, 
A  Rose  Dream. 

This  was  taken  a  dozen  years  before  I  was  born.  Mama  in  the  center  is  flanked  by  Daddy 
and  his  sister  Ava.  Left  to  right  are  my  sisters  Inez,  Bappie  (Beatrice)  and  Elsie  Mae. 

At  age  16,  with  Bob  Rose  at 
his  college  prom. 

One  of  my  very  first  pinup  photos. 

Mickey's  and  my  wedding.  That's  his  mother. 

This  is  posed  but  Mickey  really  did 
try  to  teach  me  to  play. 

After  my  operation  for 

More  dumb  publicity  shots.  (Left) 
Here  I  am  on  that  block  of  ice. 
(Below)  With  Gloria  DeHaven 
and  some  confused  chickens. 

Publicity  shots  with  Burt  Lancaster  for 
The  Killers.  Of  course  they  had  nothing  to 
do  with  the  story. 

A  scene  from  The  Hucksters  with  Clark  Gable. 

Howard  Duff  visits  me  on  my  set — 

— and  I  visit  Lana  Turner  on  hers 

Sculptor  Joseph  Nicolosi  and 
the  second,,  clothed  statue 
he  did  of  me. 

Relaxing  with  Robert  Walker  as 
they  set  up  a  scene  for 
One  Touch  of  Venus. 

Robert  Taylor. 

A  visit  back  home  in  1949.  I'm  looking  at  the  window  of  the  room  I  was  born  in. 

My  sisters  Elsie  Mae  Creech  (left)  and  Inez  Grimes  during  the  same  visit. 

Frank  escorted  me  to  the 
Show  Boat  premiere. 

As  Julie  Laverne  in  Show  Boat 

My  marriage  to  Frank,  November  7, 1951. 

Trying  to  make  a  Grenadier 
guardsman  smile,  as  a  studio 
publicity  stunt. 

Bappieandme,  1951. 

Gable  and  Grace  Kelly  on 

location  in  Africa  for 


Grace  and  me. 

Our  three-hundred-tent  encampment  for  Mogambo. 

My  character  Victoria  Jones 

sure  bad  a  bard  time  in 

Bhowani  Junction. 

The  rape  scene  is  above. 

It  was  my  costars  David  Niven  and  Stewart  Granger  who  had  a  tough  time  in 
The  Little  Hut.  That's  Walter  Chiari  in  the  grass  skirt. 

My  fall  in  195 8. 

With  Gregory  Peck  in  Australia  for  On  the  Beach. 

With  Richard  Burton  in 
Night  of  the  Iguana. 

The  notorious  silver  bullets  John 

Huston  presented  to  members 

of  the  company. 

The  Bible  with  George  C.  Scott  (above);  directed  by  John  Huston  (below). 

rk  £mpr«s  EKwfc^  ^J  Om^r  Sharif  played  my  son, 
Prince  Rudolf,  in  Mayerling. 

Morgan  and  me,  just  before  my  stroke. 

At  home  in  London. 


I  could  have  killed  him,  but  instead  I  forgave  him  in  about 
twenty-five  seconds.  We  had  no  time  for  these  nerve-destroying 
incidents.  I  know  now  that  Frank's  mock  suicidal  dramas — his 
desperate  love  signals  to  get  me  back  to  his  side — were,  at  root, 
cries  for  help.  He  was  down,  way  down.  His  contracts  were 
being  canceled.  His  wife's  lawyers  were  intent  on  screwing  every 
possible  dollar  out  of  him,  something  that  caused  him  to  force  a 
laugh  and  say,  "Ava,  I  won't  have  enough  bucks  to  buy  you  a 
pair  of  nylons  once  they're  through  with  me."  For  Christ's  sake, 
he  was  a  human  being  like  the  rest  of  us.  He'd  been  the  idol  of 
millions  and  now  he  was  being  taunted  as  a  washed-up  has-been. 
And  Frank  Sinatra  was  nothing  if  not  a  proud  man. 

Our  love  was  deep  and  true,  even  though  the  fact  that  we 
couldn't  live  with  each  other  any  more  than  we  couldn't  live 
without  each  other  sometimes  made  it  hard  for  outsiders  to  un- 
derstand. All  I  know  is  that  if  Frank  had  lost  me  or  I'd  lost  him 
during  those  months,  our  worlds  would  have  been  shattered. 

Finally,  at  the  end  of  October  1951,  Nancy's  divorce  was 
granted.  She  took  her  pound  of  flesh  from  him,  and  then  some, 
but  at  the  moment  I  didn't  care.  A  week  after  the  divorce,  Frank 
and  I  were  ready  to  stand  at  the  altar.  Then  a  shadow  fell  over 
our  happiness.  His  name  was — you  guessed  it — Howard  Hughes. 


o  say  there  was  no  love  lost  between 
Frank  and  Howard  Hughes  is  like  saying 
the  North  and  the  South  didn't  particu- 
larly care  for  each  other  during  the  War  Between  the  States.  The 
enmity  was  so  thick  you  could  cut  it  with  a  knife,  and  that  knife 
cut  both  ways. 

Frank,  for  his  part,  always  flew  off  the  handle  every  time 
Howard's  name  was  so  much  as  mentioned.  Once,  in  one  of  my 
many  ineffective  attempts  to  prove  my  absolute  devotion  to 
Frank,  I  marched  to  a  New  York  hotel  room  window,  took  off  a 
gorgeous  solid  gold  bracelet  and  a  matching  necklace,  which, 
knowing  Howard,  probably  cost  a  fortune  and  a  half,  and 
dramatically  tossed  the  damned  things  right  out  the  window.  I 
hope  whoever  picked  them  up  had  better  luck  with  them  than 
I  did. 

And  if  you  think  Howard  was  an  innocent  bystander  in  all  of 
this,  you  just  don't  know  Howard.  I'd  made  it  crystal  clear  to 
him  that  when  I  fall  in  love  with  a  man  as  I  had  with  Frank,  it's 
good-bye  to  everyone  else,  but  Howard  never  took  no  for  an 
answer.  What  can  you  expect  from  someone  who  shrugged 
off  a  brass  bell  tossed  at  the  side  of  his  head?  Believe  me,  there 
was  something  scary  about  Howard's  stop-at-nothing  determina- 

One  of  Howard's  least  charming  traits  was  the  way  he  insisted 
on  scrutinizing  everyone,  putting  a  "watcher"  on  people  he  cared 
about  so  he  would  know  what  was  going  on  with  those  he 



considered  his  property.  This  time,  he  put  a  detective  on  Mr.  Si- 
natra. The  idea?  To  discredit  Frank  in  my  eyes  and  prevent  our 
marriage.  I  mean,  Howard  needed  his  head  examined  if  he 
thought  he  could  win  my  favor  that  way,  but  we  already  know 
that,  don't  we? 

The  first  time  Howard  tried  that  ploy,  Frank  was  working  at 
the  Copacabana  in  New  York  and  I  was  staying  at  Frank's  house 
in  Palm  Springs.  And  Howard  showed  up  there  one  day  with  that 
sanctimonious  look  on  his  face  which  meant  he  thought  he  had 
the  ammunition  to  wipe  Frank  off  the  face  of  the  earth. 

There  was  a  chorus  girl  in  New  York,  he  said  piously;  he  had 
her  name,  not  to  mention  all  the  days  and  times  and  places  where 
they  met,  the  whole  routine.  I  guess  he'd  have  offered  photo- 
graphic evidence  if  I'd  been  interested.  And  I  hated  him  for  it,  I 
really  hated  him,  because  I  loved  Frank  so. 

I  called  Frank  immediately,  and  he  said,  "Untrue,  untrue." 
When  I  visited  him  in  New  York,  he  insisted  on  bringing  this 
little  chorus  girl  over  to  meet  me,  together  with  the  guy  who  ran 
the  joint,  to  convince  me  it  wasn't  true.  Look  at  this  poor  girl, 
they  said,  she  still  has  pimples  on  her  face,  she's  still  a  virgin. 
"Virgin,  my  ass!"  I  said,  right  to  her  face.  I  was  pretty  rude.  But  I 
was  angry  and  I  was  deeply  hurt. 

Finally,  however,  I  let  it  ride,  and  when  I  let  Howard  know 
that  this  kind  of  shit  cut  no  ice  with  me,  I  thought  that  would  be 
the  last  I'd  ever  hear  of  it. 

Then  came  the  night  before  the  wedding.  Bappie  and  I  shared 
one  hotel  suite,  and  nearby  rooms  held  Frank  and  his  entourage: 
Hank  Sanicola,  Dick  Jones,  a  great  piano  player,  and  Manie 
Sachs,  the  former  head  of  Frank's  label,  Columbia  Records. 
There  was  a  lot  of  visiting  between  rooms;  the  atmosphere  could 
not  have  been  more  convivial  and  pleasant. 

Until  the  letter  arrived. 

Apparently  it  had  been  given  to  the  head  bellman,  and  as  it 
was  handwritten  and  addressed  personally  to  me,  it  was  brought 
directly  to  our  room.  I  opened  it,  I  read  it  through,  and  I  could 
hardly  go  on  breathing.  It  was  from  a  woman  who  admitted  she 
was  a  whore  and  claimed  she  had  been  having  an  affair  with 
Frank.  It  was  filthy,  it  gave  details  that  I  found  convincing,  and  I 
felt  sick  to  my  stomach.  How  could  I  go  on  with  the  wedding  in 
the  face  of  a  letter  like  this? 



Bappie  saw  the  look  on  my  face  and  knew  that  it  was  serious. 
"The  wedding  is  off,"  I  said.  "Finished.  Forget  it!"  I  marched 
into  my  bedroom.  Locked  myself  in.  The  wedding  was  off  as  far 
as  I  was  concerned, 

Now  the  bedlam  began.  Frank  was  going  crazy.  Bappie  and 
Manie  Sachs,  Hank  Sanicola,  and  Dick  Jones  were  all  rushing 
backward  and  forward  between  Frank's  room  and  mine  arguing, 
wheedling,  yelling,  protesting.  They  told  me  no  one  could  cancel 
a  wedding  at  this  late  date.  It  had  all  been  prepared:  the  cars, 
the  catering,  the  minister,  the  flowers,  the  elegant  house.  I  said 
I  was  an  important  part  of  that  wedding  and  I  could  damn  well 
cancel  it. 

I  think  it  took  most  of  that  night  with  a  lot  of  back  and  forth 
before  I  agreed  to  change  my  mind.  Thinking  about  it  now,  and 
wondering  who  could  be  so  malevolent  as  to  arrange  for  that 
letter  to  arrive  at  such  a  critical  moment  and  drive  me  almost  out 
of  my  mind,  the  finger  points  in  only  one  direction — Howard 
Hughes.  At  the  time,  however,  I  didn't  dream  that  Howard 
would  try  and  pull  a  trick  like  that. 

Manie  Sachs'  brother  Lester  had  generously  offered  us  his 
house  in  Philadelphia  for  the  wedding,  hoping  against  hope  that 
reporters  would  not  find  their  way  there.  Of  course  they  did. 
Lester  had  to  use  a  catering  firm  to  arrange  the  reception  and 
they  were  certainly  not  above  gossiping  to  reporters. 

Frank  shouted  insults  down  at  them  from  the  Sachses'  bed- 
room window,  and  I  tried  to  calm  him  down.  My  side  of  the 
family  was  represented  by  Bappie,  Frank's  by  his  mother  and  fa- 
ther and  several  of  Frank's  best  friends:  Hank  Sanicola;  Ben  Bar- 
ton, a  partner  of  Frank's;  his  conductor,  Axel  Stordahl,  and  his 
wife;  and  Dick  Jones,  whose  fingers  were  poised  above  the  key- 
board of  a  grand  piano. 

I  glided  down  the  stairs  in  my  mauve  marquisette  cocktail 
dress,  wearing  a  double  strand  of  pearls,  pearl  and  diamond 
earrings,  my  finger  itching  to  receive  the  narrow  platinum  wed- 
ding ring  that  Frank  and  I  had  chosen.  Dick  Jones  attempted 
to  strike  up  Mendelssohn's  familiar  wedding  march.  Only  this 
time  it  wasn't  at  all  familiar.  The  piano  hadn't  been  tuned  for 
ages.  Dick  gave  up  on  his  recital  and  joined  the  champagne 

Lester  Sachs  had  done  a  very  good  job.  We  stood  at  a  specially 



erected  altar  and,  on  November  7,  1951,  a  judge  named  Sloane 
made  us  man  and  wife.  Then  we  moved  to  the  bar  and  went  over 
plans  for  our  escape, 

Frank  had  hired  a  plane,  a  twin-engined  Beechcraft,  that  he 
couldn't  really  afford.  But  what  the  hell,  he  said,  it  is  our  honey- 
moon. Fd  changed  into  a  blue  traveling  suit,  and  we  hurried 
down  the  stairs  kissing  and  hugging  our  good-byes.  The  front 
door  was  flung  open  and  we  sprinted  through  the  photographers 
to  the  car.  It  was  all  a  confusing  whirl,  and  it  wasn't  until  I  was 
climbing  the  stairs  into  the  plane  to  Miami  that  I  realized  that  in 
the  rush  I'd  left  the  suitcase  holding  my  honeymoon  trousseau 
behind.  All  I  had  with  me  was  my  handbag! 

Well,  there  was  no  point  in  having  a  fit;  it  would  rejoin  me 
sometime  or  other.  But  hell,  I  didn't  even  have  the  beautiful  little 
nightie  I'd  saved  for  our  wedding  night.  I  didn't  have  a  bathing 
suit.  I'd  didn't  have  anything  to  go  to  the  beach  in — nothing!  So  I 
slept  in  Frank's  pajamas,  at  least  the  top  half  of  them,  and  the 
next  day  we  walked  along  the  empty  beach,  me  in  the  bottom 
half  of  my  travel  suit  and  Frank's  jacket.  Naturally  a  photogra- 
pher was  lying  in  wait  and  snapped  a  shot  of  us,  barefoot,  hold- 
ing hands.  I've  always  thought  it  was  a  sad  little  photograph,  a 
sad  little  commentary  on  our  lives  then.  We  were  simply  two 
young  people  so  much  in  love,  and  the  world  wouldn't  leave  us 
alone  for  a  second.  It  seemed  that  everyone  and  everything  was 
against  us,  and  all  we  asked  for  was  a  bit  of  peace  and  privacy. 

We  went  on  from  Miami  to  Havana,  where  my  luggage  finally 
caught  up  with  us.  Havana  in  those  Batista  days  was  an  Amer- 
ican playground,  complete  with  gambling  houses,  whorehouses, 
and  brightly  lit  cafes,  every  other  one  boasting  a  live  orchestra. 
Traffic,  lights,  bustle,  cigar  smoke,  pretty  girls,  balmy  air,  stars  in 
the  sky,  they  all  combined  to  form  a  Latin  town  that  aimed  to 

We  drank  a  lot  of  Cuba  libres  and  went  out  to  the  nightclubs 
and  the  gambling  joints.  Fortunately,  most  of  the  paparazzi 
seemed  to  have  other  things  to  do,  so  we  were  pretty  much  left 
alone.  I  don't  even  know  if  I  would  have  noticed  if  we  weren't; 
I  was  finally  on  my  honeymoon  with  the  man  I  loved.  On  one 
of  our  last  nights,  I  climbed  up  on  one  of  the  hotel's  high  arch- 
ways, convincing  Frank  that  I  was  going  to  throw  myself  off. 
But  I  was  just  being  mischievous,  swinging  along  on  rum  and 



Coke  with  no  intention  of  ending  it  all.  I  was  having  far  too 
much  fun. 

Once  we  got  back  to  the  States,  however,  our  battling  picked 
up  where  we'd  left  off.  Anything  could  get  me  going.  I  remember, 
though  I  wish  I  didn't,  one  of  Frank's  performances  in  New  York 
when  I  somehow  convinced  myself  he  was  singing  especially  for 
an  old  flame,  Marilyn  Maxwell,  who  happened  to  be  in  the  au- 
dience. All  these  people  there,  and  I  believe  that  Frank  is  having  a 
little  flirt  with  Marilyn.  I  mean,  the  ability  to  flirt  with  the  entire 
audience  is  one  of  Frank's  primary  gifts  as  a  performer. 

Naturally,  a  fight  started  back  at  the  hotel  after  the  perfor- 
mance. I  ran  out  the  door  and  into  a  pouring  rain  that  was 
drenching  the  city's  streets.  It  must  have  been  two  A.M. 
Everything  was  dark,  deserted.  There  I  was,  dressed  to  kill  (re- 
member, I'd  been  at  that  concert),  bareheaded,  barefoot,  and 
heartbroken,  my  tears  mixing  with  the  rain.  I  ran,  God  knows 
how  far.  When  I  spotted  a  subway  entrance,  I  went  down.  I  had 
no  purse,  but  I  did  have  enough  loose  change  to  buy  a  token. 

I  got  on  a  train  and  I  don't  know  how  long  I  sat  there. 
Maybe  forty  minutes,  maybe  an  hour.  I  reached  the  end  of  the 
line.  They  told  me  there  wouldn't  be  another  train  for  a  long 
time.  I  walked  out  of  the  station  and  found  myself  in  a  sleazy, 
dilapidated  neighborhood  on  the  fringes  of  the  city.  To  this  day, 
I  have  no  idea  exactly  where  I  was.  I  didn't  know  a  thing  about 
New  York. 

It  was  still  raining.  A  gray  light  was  coming  up  behind  the 
rooftops  and  it  was  cold.  I  walked  around  for  perhaps  fifteen 
minutes  when  a  cruising  taxi  came  along  and  I  hailed  it.  The 
driver  was  very  suspicious  at  first,  especially  when  I  said, 
"Hampshire  House  hotel,  near  Central  Park."  Then  he  caught 
on.  At  least  he  thought  he  caught  on.  Clearly,  I  was  a  prostitute 
out  on  a  call!  What  else  would  a  pretty,  well-dressed  young  lady 
be  doing  walking  around  at  this  time  in  the  morning,  and  asking 
to  be  taken  to  a  posh  New  York  hotel? 

I  caught  his  drift,  but  I  wasn't  going  to  argue  for  a  single 
second.  Just  get  me  to  the  Hampshire  House,  that's  all  I  cared 
about.  Besides,  how  could  I  say,  "No,  I'm  not  a  prostitute. 
Pm  Mrs.  Frank  Sinatra  out  for  an  early-morning  walk  in  the 

So  I  went  along  with  the  idea. 



And  he  was  furious.  Not  at  me.  Prostitutes  were  part  of  every- 
day life  for  a  New  York  cabbie.  But  how  dare  that  goddamn  jerk 
waiting  in  the  Hampshire  House  get  a  nice  girl  like  me  out  on  the 
streets  at  this  time  in  the  morning  in  this  sort  of  weather?  These 
out-of-town  pains-in-the-ass  thought  they  could  do  whatever 
they  damn  pleased  in  New  York.  "Now  listen  here,  hon,"  the 
cabbie  said.  "You  make  him  pay  for  this.  You  hit  him  for  plenty. 
If  he  wants  you  at  this  time  in  the  morning,  then  he's  gotta  spend 
real  bucks  for  the  privilege.  You  got  that,  hon?" 

"Hon,"  sitting  in  the  back,  got  that  loud  and  clear.  I  think 
with  a  little  encouragement  the  driver  might  have  come  into  the 
Hampshire  House  and  punched  my  imaginary  client  in  the  nose. 
He  had  a  real  chivalrous  nature,  this  guy  did. 

We  slid  to  a  stop  outside  the  Hampshire  House.  It  was 
daylight.  New  York  was  gently  opening  its  eyes.  The  doorman 
hurried  across  to  let  me  out.  His  face  and  his  voice  did  not 
change  but  he  recognized  me  immediately. 

"Good  morning,  Mrs.  Sinatra,"  he  said  politely. 

Halfway  through  the  door  I  glanced  back  at  the  taxi  driver 
leaning  across  his  seat  toward  me.  He  caught  the  name  and 
the  doorman's  servility  and  his  face  became  one  of  those  frozen 
movie  frames:  the  mouth  open,  the  eyes  fixed,  the  brain 
cells  confused.  Then  he  got  his  voice  back  and  he  was  so  apolo- 
getic that  I  felt  awfully  sorry  for  him  after  all  the  help  he'd 
given  me. 

I  stopped  him  in  mid-confusion.  "Please  don't  apologize.  You 
got  me  out  of  a  lot  of  trouble,  and  I'll  always  be  grateful  to  you." 
I  think  a  little  smile  may  have  strayed  across  my  face.  "And 
thanks  a  lot  for  the  advice." 

I  tugged  the  doorman's  sleeve  and  whispered  in  his  ear.  "Can 
you  pay  the  fare  and  add  on  a  ten-dollar  tip?" 

The  doorman  touched  his  hat  and  fished  in  his  pocket.  There 
were  still  some  gentlemen  left  in  New  York  City. 

Frank  was  still  up  when  I  reached  our  suite.  I  could  tell  by  his 
eyes  that  he  was  tired,  but  they  lit  up  when  I  came  through  the 
door.  Any  young  husband  tends  to  get  worried  when  his  young 
wife  goes  tearing  off  into  the  wilds  of  New  York  in  the  middle  of 
the  night.  "Egg  sandwich?"  he  said.  Frank  can  make  an  egg  sand- 
wich like  nobody  else  in  the  whole  wide  world.  I  can  see  him 
doing  it  now.  I  didn't  say  a  word,  I  don't  think  he  did  either.  I 



watched  him  heating  up  the  olive  oil  in  the  pan,  and  then  putting 
in  the  white  bread — it's  got  to  be  white  bread.  Then  he  dropped 
the  egg  into  the  hot  olive  oil,  added  salt  and  pepper,  and  did  the 
quick  sandwich  trick  with  the  bread.  He  handed  it  to  me  and 

gave  me  a  glass  of  milk.  Then  he  said  he  was  glad  I'd  got  home  in 
one  piece. 

I  had  my  mouth  full  but  I  said  I  was,  too. 



ilimanjaro  is  a  snow-covered  mountain 
19,710  feet  high,  and  is  said  to  be  the 
highest  mountain  in  Africa.  Its  western 
summit  is  called  the  Masai  'Ngaje  Ngai,'  the  House  of  God. 
Close  to  the  western  summit,  there  is  the  dried  and  frozen  carcass 
of  a  leopard.  No  one  has  explained  what  the  leopard  was  seeking 
at  that  altitude." 

That  paragraph,  one  of  the  most  famous  Papa  Hemingway 
ever  wrote,  is  also  the  first  words  you  hear  in  the  film  version  of 
his  short  story  that  I  starred  in  in  1952,  a  film  that  really  pushed 
me  into  international  stardom.  Yet  if  the  filmmakers  had  been  as 
faithful  to  the  whole  story  as  they  were  to  those  few  words,  there 
probably  wouldn't  have  been  enough  of  a  part  for  me  to  play  to 
get  any  kind  of  recognition  at  all. 

Papa's  short  story,  set  on  an  African  safari,  appeared  in  1936 
and  was  eventually  bought  up  for  seventy-five  thousand  dollars 
by  Darryl  F.  Zanuck,  one  of  Hollywood's  most  powerful  inde- 
pendent producers,  who  pretty  much  ran  his  own  little  kingdom 
at  Twentieth  Century— Fox.  A  big-game  hunter  himself,  Zanuck 
was  eager  to  see  Snows  filmed,  and  he  gave  the  project  to  veteran 
screenwriter  Casey  Robinson  to  adapt. 

Snows  proved  a  tough  nut  to  crack.  First  of  all,  like  The  Killers 
before  it,  it  was  only  a  short  story,  and  one  with  a  confusing 
stream-of-consciousness  structure  at  that.  It  told  of  Harry,  a  suc- 
cessful writer  who  reviews  his  unsatisfactory  life  as  he  lies  dying 
in  the  shadow  of  Africa's  tallest  mountain.  Making  things  even 



harder  was  the  fact  that  Papa,  always  the  pessimist,  has  the 
writer  die  at  the  close,  and  Zanuck  was  adamant  that  this  film 
have  a  happy  ending. 

Robinson  came  up  with  a  solution  that  he  called  "one  third 
Hemingway,  one  third  Zanuck,  and  one  third  myself."  For 
openers,  he  borrowed  episodes  so  freely  from  Papa's  novels  that 
the  poor  man  complained,  "I  sold  Fox  a  single  story,  not  my 
complete  works.  This  movie  has  something  from  nearly  every 
story  that  I  ever  wrote  in  it."  He  switches  scenes  from  Africa  to 
Michigan  to  Paris  and  Madrid  until  you  think  you're  in  a  damn 
travelogue.  Harry  still  talks  about  how  "dying  a  failure  leaves  a 
bad  taste  in  your  mouth"  and  complains  that,  "I've  lived,  all 
right,  but  where  has  it  gotten  me?"  But  the  movie  version  allows 
him  to  survive  at  the  end,  transformed  by  the  love  of  his  wealthy 
but  loving  second  wife  Helen,  who  chases  away  an  ornery  hyena 
and  saves  the  day. 

To  fill  out  the  story,  Robinson  also  padded  the  stories  of  the 
earlier  women  in  Harry's  life.  Harry  was  played  by  my  old  pal 
Greg  Peck,  and  I  was  to  play  Cynthia,  his  first  wife  and  true  love, 
though  you  wouldn't  know  that  from  the  ads,  where  I'm  de- 
scribed as  "a  model  from  Montparnasse  who  lit  a  fire  in  him  that 
could  only  be  quenched  by  the  eternal  Snaws  of  Kilimanjaro," 
whatever  that  means. 

Harry  runs  into  me  during  his  early  days  as  a  struggling  novel- 
ist in  Paris,  and  he's  immediately  attracted,  not  only  because  I've 
got  the  kind  of  laugh  strong  men  fight  over  but  because,  in  a 
town  full  of  earnest  artists,  I  was  easygoing  enough  to  be  "the 
only  person  in  the  whole  darn  place  who's  only  trying  to  be 
happy."  And  when  I  look  him  right  in  the  eyes  and  say,  "I'm  my 
own  lady,"  I  goddamn  well  make  him  and  everyone  in  the  the- 
ater believe  it. 

We  get  married,  I  offer  moral  support  as  Harry  becomes  in- 
creasingly successful  as  a  writer,  and  I  feel  so  happy  "every  bit  of 
me  said  'This  is  all  of  it.'"  But  then  we  go  to  Africa,  on  Harry's 
first  safari,  and  I'm  distressed  at  his  wanderlust,  not  to  mention 
his  blood  lust  as  he  mows  down  assorted  wildlife.  I've  also  got  a 
secret:  I'm  pregnant  and  I'm  afraid  to  tell  him. 

Finally,  fearing  that  a  family  would  tie  him  down  and  ruin  his 
career,  I  deliberately  fall  down  a  pretty  fearsome  set  of  stairs  and 
miscarry.  Then,  to  get  me  off  his  mind,  I  make  him  believe  I've 



fallen  for  a  fairly  sappy  flamenco  dancer.  He  remarries.  I  don't 
reappear  in  his  life  until  a  decade  later,  when  as  an  ambulance 
driver  in  the  Spanish  Civil  War,  I  just  about  die  in  his  strong 

Of  all  the  parts  I've  played,  Cynthia  was  probably  the  first  one 
I  understood  and  felt  comfortable  with,  the  first  role  I  truly 
wanted  to  play.  In  fact,  I  did  my  biggest  scene,  the  one  in  a  Span- 
ish nightclub  where  our  marriage  falls  apart  and  I  run  away  with 
Mr.  Flamenco,  in  a  single  take  without  closeups.  This  wasn't  at 
all  like  some  of  those  other  slinky-black-dress  parts  Fd  had.  This 
girl  wasn't  a  tramp  or  a  bitch  or  a  real  smart  cookie.  She  was  a 
good  average  girl  with  normal  impulses.  I  didn't  have  to  pretend. 
And  if  I  hadn't  proved  that  I  was  my  own  lady  with  the  kind  of 
life  I'd  led  up  to  then,  I  hadn't  proved  anything  at  all. 

My  enthusiasm,  however,  apparently  was  not  enough  for  Mr. 
Zanuck.  There  were  rumors  that  he  thought  I  might  not  be  able 
to  handle  the  role,  though  my  work  in  Show  Boat  helped  ease  his 
mind.  I've  also  heard  stories  that  Arlene  Francis  was  his  original 
choice,  but  a  key  plot  point  is  that  Harry  first  meets  second  wife 
Helen  by  mistaking  her  for  Cynthia  in  front  of  the  Ritz  Hotel  in 
Paris,  and  I  certainly  fit  that  bill  better  than  Arlene  did. 

One  thing  that  turned  out  to  be  surprising  about  the  film,  once 
Metro  lent  me  out  and  I  got  the  part,  was  that  though  it  was  set 
in  the  four  corners  of  the  world,  all  the  principal  photography 
was  done  in  Hollywood  on  the  Fox  lot.  All  of  Stage  8,  in  fact, 
was  turned  into  a  massive  African  hunting  camp  courtesy  of  a 
three-hundred-fifty-by-forty-foot  cyclorama  painting  of  snowy 
Mt.  Kilimanjaro  itself.  And  some  of  the  props  they  used,  like  an 
elephant-foot  stool,  came  direct  from  Zanuck's  office. 

If  I  didn't  have  any  problems  with  the  role  of  Cynthia,  I  did 
have  some  difficulties  with  Frank.  Shooting  began  just  weeks 
after  our  wedding,  and  he  was  really  up  against  it  at  that  time. 
Unbeknownst  to  the  public,  he  was  having  serious  problems  with 
his  voice,  and  his  agents  were  having  difficulty  booking  him  into 
top  night  spots.  It  seems  hard  to  believe  now,  but  he  was  having 
to  play  saloons  and  dates  that  were  way  beneath  him.  And  feel- 
ing that  way,  it  was  really  important  to  him  that  his  wife  be  by 
his  side  in  New  York. 

I  talked  to  Zanuck,  to  Casey  Robinson,  and  to  director  Henry 
King,  and  they  rearranged  the  film's  schedule  so  all  my  scenes 



could  be  shot  in  ten  days.  Frank  agreed  to  let  me  go  for  that 
period  of  time.  But  on  the  last  day  of  shooting,  when  we  had 
hundreds  of  extras  for  one  of  our  Spanish  Civil  War  scenes, 
things  took  longer  than  we  anticipated.  Since  it  would  have  been 
too  expensive  to  keep  the  extras  late,  it  was  decided  that  we'd 
finish  shooting  on  the  eleventh  day.  I  knew  Frank  would  give  me 
holy  hell  about  that,  and  he  did. 

A  lot  of  silliness  happened  when  the  film  was  finally  released, 
with  exhibitors  complaining  that  people  wouldn't  go  to  a  picture 
whose  name  they  can't  pronounce,  and  Fox  countersuggesting 
that  theaters  sponsor  essay  contests  of  a  hundred  words  or  less 
on  what  the  hell  the  leopard  was  seeking  at  that  altitude. 

Though  1  got  excellent  reviews  for  my  performance  (Variety 
said  I  made  Cynthia  "a  warm,  appealing,  alluring  standout"), 
Papa  was  as  unhappy  with  the  film  as  Frank  was.  He  took  to 
calling  it  The  Snows  ofZanuck  and  kept  threatening  to  oil  up  his 
old  hunting  rifle,  return  to  the  mountain,  and  go  searching  for 
the  producer's  soul.  "Ava,"  he  told  me  once,  "the  only  two  good 
things  in  it  were  you  and  the  hyena."  I  never  had  the  heart  to  tell 
him  that  the  hyena  on  the  sound  track  was  an  expert  imitation 
provided  by  director  King,  an  old  Africa  hand  who  everyone 
agreed  sounded  better  than  the  real  thing. 



aybe  it's  the  air,  maybe  it's  the  altitude, 
maybe  it's  just  the  place's  goddamn  kar- 
ma, but  Frank's  establishment  in  Palm 
Springs,  the  only  house  we  really  could  ever  call  our  own,  has 
seen  some  pretty  amazing  occurrences.  It  was  the  site  of  probably 
the  most  spectacular  fight  of  our  young  married  life,  and  honey, 
don't  think  I  don't  know  that's  really  saying  something.  And 
even  before  that  it  provided  me  with  a  chance  to  spend  some  time 
with  the  most  reclusive  of  Hollywood  legends,  Greta  Garbo. 

When  Artie  Shaw  and  I  were  married,  Garbo  had  lived  right 
next  door  on  Bedford  Drive  in  Beverly  Hills,  but  in  spite  of  peer- 
ing over  walls,  through  hedges,  and  over  curtains  I  never  caught 
so  much  as  a  glimpse  of  her.  So  now,  when  my  old  friend  Minna 
Wallis  called  the  house  at  Palm  Springs  and  said  she  and  Garbo 
would  like  to  spend  the  weekend  there  and  didn't  care  if  Bappie 
and  I  stayed  along  for  the  ride,  you  better  believe  I  was  pleased  at 
the  opportunity. 

"We'd  love  to  have  her,"  I  said,  the  Scarlett  O'Hara  of  host- 
esses. "When  does  she  want  to  arrive?" 

"In  about  five  minutes." 

"Oh,  my  God!" 

It  was  midsummer  in  the  desert,  hot  enough  to  fry  an  egg  on 
the  sidewalk,  but  Bappie  and  I  rushed  around,  arranging  flowers 
in  Miss  Garbo's  bedroom  and  turning  up  the  air-conditioning. 
We'd  barely  had  time  to  do  anything  before  a  taxi  pulled  up  and 
out  she  stepped,  wearing  not  only  the  expected  large  sunglasses 



and  wide-brimmed  hat  but  also,  I  swear  to  God,  a  wool  tur- 
tleneck  sweater,  this  huge  woolen  scarf  around  her  neck,  and 
quite  a  heavy  coat  on  top  of  it  all. 

"Hello,  Miss  Garbo,"  I  said,  still  the  polite  Southern  miss. 
"I'm  Ava  Gardner/' 

Did  I  get  a  hello  back?  A  handshake?  The  slightest  sign  of 
recognition?  No,  I  did  not.  Instead  there  was  this  sweeping  move- 
ment toward  the  house  and  a  booming  "Where  is  my  roooom?", 
the  echoing  vowels  as  broad  as  the  great  outdoors.  And  no 
sooner  were  she  and  Minna  settled  in  their  rooms  when  word 
came  out  that  (a)  Miss  Garbo  didn't  like  air-conditioning  and  (b) 
if  there  was  anything  Miss  Garbo  liked  less  than  air-conditioning, 
it  was  flowers. 

Bappie  and  I  retreated  to  the  pool,  fortifying  ourselves  alco- 
holically  for  what  we  were  beginning  to  fear  would  be  a  grim 
weekend.  Then,  about  an  hour  later,  Miss  Garbo  decided  to  join 
us.  She  walked  out  to  the  pool  and  I  really  think  she  was  the 
most  beautiful  thing  I  have  ever  seen  in  my  life.  And  I  mean  that 
despite  the  fact  that  she  wore  a  pair  of  men's  baggy  khaki  shorts 
that  came  down  to  her  knees — and  nothing  else.  Though  she 
must  have  been  in  her  mid-forties,  her  breasts  and  shoulders  were 
glorious.  Her  face  had  just  a  touch  of  blue  eye  shadow,  her  lips  a 
trace  of  lipstick,  and  she  had  that  wonderful  hair  that  moved 
from  side  to  side  as  she  turned  her  head.  She  was  totally  magnifi- 

She  was  Greta  now,  all  smiles,  with  the  intention,  she  said,  of 
taking  a  little  swim.  She  changed  into  a  dress  after  that,  accepted 
our  offer  of  vodka,  and  began  a  memorable  weekend  of  drinking, 
eating,  laughing,  and  more  eating.  Because  though  she  was  in- 
volved with  nutritionist  Gaylord  Hauser  and  had  the  stock  of 
health  foods  and  vitamins  to  prove  it,  Miss  Garbo  definitely  had 
a  robust  Swedish  appetite. 

The  only  time  she  brought  up  health  was  when  she  made  the 
rather  enigmatic  comment  that  "it  was  the  'kneeses'  under  the 
table  that  gives  us  diseases."  After  a  few  more  vodkas,  Greta 
made  her  point  clear.  You  sat  down  to  dine,  your  "kneeses"  care- 
fully placed  under  the  table.  You  had  a  plate  in  front  of  you.  You 
filled  it,  stuffed  yourself,  got  fat,  and  contracted  one  of  the  many 
diseases  associated  with  that  condition.  True  enough,  those 
"kneeses  under  the  table"  had  brought  you  to  an  untimely  end. 



There  were  two  other  things  I  remember  about  Greta's  conver- 
sation. At  one  point  she  admired  a  small,  inexpensive  bracelet 
that  Frank  had  given  me  and  said,  rather  sadly,  "You  know,  I 
love  jewelry,  and  yet  men  have  never  given  any  to  me.  I  don't 
know  why."  And  she  also  admitted  that  the  only  man  she'd  ever 
really  loved  was  John  Gilbert,  her  romantic  costar,  but  that  he'd 
"let  me  down"  by  having  a  surreptitious  affair  (is  there  any  other 
kind?)  with  a  little  extra  during  their  last  film  together.  She  had 
never  forgiven  him. 

Brother,  did  I  ever  know  about  romantic  battles.  Or  at  least  I 
thought  I  did,  because  soon  after  the  filming  of  The  Snows  of 
Kilimanjaro  was  completed,  Frank  and  I  had  a  spectacular  night 
of  ridiculous  boozy  drama  in  Palm  Springs  that  even  French  farce 
couldn't  have  competed  with. 

And  the  evening  had  started  out  so  well.  Frank  and  I  had 
driven  over  the  hill  to  the  San  Fernando  Valley  to  have  dinner 
with  a  couple  of  friends.  Unfortunately,  we  drank  quite  a  lot.  I 
never  much  cared  about  what  I  was  drinking,  only  about  the 
effect  it  was  having  on  me,  and  that  night  the  effect  wasn't  very 
good.  I  took  offense  at  some  remark  and  all  hell  started  to  break 
loose.  By  the  time  we'd  gotten  home  to  Pacific  Palisades,  my 
mood  had  taken  on  an  icy,  remote,  to-hell-with-all-men  tinge.  To 
emphasize  the  remoteness  I  felt,  I  retired  to  the  solitude  of  my 
bathroom.  So  there  \  was,  lying  in  my  tub,  soothing  myself  under 
the  bubbles,  when  Frank  came  breezing  in,  picking  up  the  argu- 
ment where  it  had  left  off. 

I  was  furious.  I  hate  intrusions  when  I  have  my  clothes  off.  It's 
a  bred-in-the-bone  shyness,  some  sort  of  deep  insecurity  which  I 
guess  comes  from  my  childhood.  As  I've  said,  with  each  of  my 
three  husbands  it  took  me  several  drinks  and  a  lot  of  courage  to 
appear  disrobed  in  front  of  them. 

I  reacted  instinctively.  "Get  out  of  here!"  I  yelled. 

Naturally,  that  gave  my  husband  the  feeling  that  he  was  not 
truly  loved. 

Frank  exploded.  He  yelled  back,  "For  Christ's  sake,  aren't  I 
married  to  you?" 

That  cut  no  ice  with  me.  I  was  still  outraged. 

"Go  away!"  I  screamed. 

Which  paved  the  way  for  what  I  have  to  admit  was  a  truly 
memorable  exit  line.  "Okay!  Okay!  If  that's  the  way  you  want  it. 



Pm  leaving.  And  if  you  want  to  know  where  I  am,  I'm  in  Palm 
Springs  fucking  Lana  Turner." 

The  bathroom  door  slammed.  The  front  door  slammed.  I 
heard  the  car  roar  away.  My  car.  The  only  car! 

So  I  got  out  of  the  bath.  Thoughtfully.  I  got  dressed  and  be- 
came all  the  more  thoughtful  about  what  Frank  had  said.  At  first 
it  didn't  bother  me.  But  the  more  I  thought  about  it  the  more  it 
did  bother  me. 

What  does  a  young,  recently  married  wife  do  in  a  situation  like 
this?  Hire  a  private  detective?  How  the  hell  can  I  hire  a  private 
eye  at  this  time  of  night?  Better  handle  it  myself.  Catch  'em  in  the 
act!  At  that  time  Lana  was  staying  at  our  Palm  Springs  house. 
Frank  had  lent  it  to  Lana  and  her  business  manager,  Ben  Cole, 
for  a  few  days.  Ben  was  a  nice  guy.  No  romance  between  them. 

I  went  to  the  telephone  and  called  Bappie.  Sometimes  Bappie 
has  a  hard  time  forgetting  that  she's  not  my  mother,  but  she  is  a 
good  friend.  It  was  past  midnight  and  I  could  tell  that,  like  me, 
Bappie'd  had  a  little  to  drink. 

"Bappie,"  I  said,  "I  haven't  got  a  car.  Pm  going  to  call  a  taxi 
and  meet  you  in  your  car  at  the  foot  of  Nichols  Canyon.  We're 
going  to  Palm  Springs." 

Bappie  reacted  as  if  she'd  been  stuck  with  an  electric  prod. 
"What?"  she  yelled.  "Do  you  know  what  time  it  is?" 

"Late,"  I  said  evasively.  The  hours  after  midnight  had  a  habit 
of  slipping  away  very  quickly  in  those  days.  "But  we've  got  to  go 
to  Palm  Springs." 

"What  for?" 

"Bappie,  this  is  urgent.  Pve  got  to  catch  Frank  in  the  act." 

"Okay,"  she  said  grudgingly,  "I'll  be  there." 

We  arrived  at  Frank's  house  in  Palm  Springs  and  I  faced  my 
first  test.  The  gate  was  locked.  I  paused  for  thought.  If  I  rang  the 
bell,  which  sounded  in  the  kitchen,  someone  would  press  a  but- 
ton and  the  gate  would  open.  But  that  was  no  good.  I  had  to 
remain  invisible  until  the  moment  of  discovery.  "Well  drive 
around  the  back  and  get  in  that  way,"  I  said  to  Bappie. 

"But  that's  all  desert,"  Bappie  wailed.  "It's  full  of  sidewin- 
ders— and  they're  deadly." 

What's  a  sidewinder  compared  to  the  chance  of  surprising 
Frank  Sinatra,  I  thought,  and,  headlights  out,  we  headed  for  the 
back,  where  the  pool  that  Greta  Garbo  had  so  loved  was  sepa- 



rated  from  the  desert  by  nothing  more  than  a  six-foot  chain  link 
fence.  Since  climbing  has  never  been  a  problem  for  me,  I  took  off 
my  shoes  and  scampered  over,  leaving  Bappie  behind  me  to  fuss 
about  those  sidewinders. 

I  approached  the  house  cautiously,  and  then  realized  I  didn't 
have  to  bother.  The  curtains  on  all  the  damn  windows  were 
closed  tight.  That's  something  that  never  happens  in  detective 
movies.  How  are  you  supposed  to  catch  'em  in  the  act  if  you 
can't  see  in? 

I  moved  quietly  from  window  to  window,  looking  for  even  a 
sliver  of  light.  Finally  I  found  one  at  the  kitchen  window,  and  I'd 
just  got  my  nose  pressed  against  the  glass  when  the  back  door 
right  next  to  me  opened,  Ben  Cole  poked  his  head  out  and  said, 
"Ava,  is  that  you?  Come  on  in,  honey." 

I  went  to  rescue  Bappie  from  the  snakes  and  we  went  inside, 
where  Lana  was  looking  as  lovely  as  ever.  I  knew  that  at  one 
time  she  felt  like  she'd  been  on  the  verge  of  marrying  Frank, 
which  certainly  gave  some  impetus  to  my  suspicions,  but  we'd 
always  been  good,  if  not  close,  friends.  And  Fd  always  admired 
her  as  a  great  movie  star.  I  remembered  when  I  first  arrived  in 
Hollywood,  a  starlet  green  as  a  spring  tobacco  leaf.  I'd  glimpsed 
Lana  on  a  set  one  day,  and  I'd  thought,  Now,  there's  the  real 
thing.  She  had  a  canvas-backed  chair  inscribed  with  her  name 
and  a  stool  next  to  it  holding  her  things.  What  struck  me  was 
that  among  them  was  a  gleaming  gold  cigarette  case  and  a  gleam- 
ing gold  lighter.  Without  envy  I'd  thought,  Now  that's  what  a 
real  film  star  should  look  like.  That's  style. 

What  interested  me  at  that  moment,  however,  was  that  there 
was  no  sign  of  Frank. 

Nothing  daunted,  the  four  of  us  settled  down  to  have  a  party. 
The  house  had  a  big  kitchen  with  a  long  bar  and  a  row  of  stools. 
Lana  had  her  bottle  of  iced  vodka,  and  Ben  was  serving  the  rest 
of  us  drinks.  I  began  to  feel  very  happy,  although  I  had  a  small 
regret  that  my  career  as  a  private  eye  hadn't  lasted  very  long. 

It  turned  out  to  be  the  calm  before  the  storm.  Lana,  mean- 
while, passed  on  one  other  item  of  news:  she  was  expecting  her 
current  boyfriend  down  from  Los  Angeles,  where  he  ran  a  club. 
Once  it  closed,  he  was  driving  across  to  Palm  Springs  to  spend 
the  night.  Maybe,  I  thought,  he'll  arrive  before  Frank. 

At  that  very  moment  the  front  door  was  thrown  open.  Frank 



had  arrived.  Nothing  subdued  about  that  entrance.  The  door  was 
behind  us  so  we  all  swung  round  on  our  bar  stools,  caught  in  the 
middle  of  one  of  those  inevitable  pregnant  pauses. 

Then,  aided  by  the  booze,  like  a  fool  I  tossed  off  one  of  those 
throwaway  lines  that  would  have  been  better  thrown  away.  "Ah, 
Frank!  I  thought  you  were  going  to  be  down  here  fucking  Lana." 

That  really  got  the  blood  flowing.  Here  I  was  mocking  him 
and  having  a  great  time.  Without  him!  In  his  house! 

Frank,  completely  flustered,  responded  with  the  first  thought 
that  came  into  his  mind  and  yelled,  "I  wouldn't  touch  that  broad 
if  you  paid  me." 

It  was  a  cruel  remark  but  Frank  was  angry  at  me,  not  at  Lana. 
She,  however,  immediately  burst  into  tears  and  rushed  away  sob- 
bing,  "I'm  leaving,  I'm  leaving!55  And  off  she  went  to  get  her 
things.  Ben  Cole,  who  had  been  the  complete  gentleman  through- 
out, raised  his  eyes  to  heaven  and  went  off  to  help  her  pack. 

"Out  of  my  house/'  Frank  was  screaming.  "Out,  out,  out! 
Everybody  out!" 

I  felt  that  was  very  unreasonable.  After  all  we'd  been  married 
for  quite  a  few  months  and  I  thought  it  was  my  house,  too.  Also, 
an  awful  lot  of  my  clothes,  books,  records,  and  God-knows-what 
shared  the  space  with  Frank's  things. 

I  made  that  point  clear.  And  though  I  hadn't  had  a  whole  lot 
of  experience  in  playing  empresses,  queens,  countesses,  duch- 
esses, or  any  other  aristocratic  ladies,  I  managed  to  be  pretty 
damn  regal  and  aloof  at  that  moment. 

"Okay,"  I  said  knowing  that  booze  never  affected  my  diction. 
"I  will  go.  But  in  my  own  rime.  Taking  my  books  and  records 
and  personal  belongings  with  me." 

To  make  a  start,  I  got  a  ladder — who  knows  from  where — and 
placed  it  against  the  highest  bookshelf.  Then  I  climbed  to  the 
very  top  and  began  carefully  picking  out  books  and  records  and 
dropping  them  all  the  way  down  on  the  carpet. 

Frank  seemed  to  approve  of  this  idea.  Furiously  he  scooped  up 
everything  I'd  thrown  on  the  floor  and  heaved  it  all  out  the  still- 
open  front  door — he'd  never  bothered  to  close  it — and  onto  the 
pitch-dark  driveway.  Not  to  be  outdone,  I  stalked  across  to  the 
bedroom  and  bathroom  and  started  to  pile  my  clothes,  cosmetics, 
and  every  other  goddamn  odd  and  end  I  had  in  a  heap  on  the 
floor.  And  Frank  grabbed  those  as  well,  raced  to  the  door,  and 


A  VA:    MY  STORY 

tossed  them  out  into  the  night  to  join  the  ever-growing  mess  in 
the  driveway. 

It  was  at  least  three  in  the  morning  when  Lana  and  Ben,  God 
bless  them,  departed  to  look  for  rooms  somewhere,  anywhere 
else.  By  this  time,  nothing  was  separating  Frank  and  me.  I  was 
clinging  to  the  nearest  doorknob,  holding  on  for  dear  life,  and 
Frank,  with  both  his  hands  around  my  waist,  was  trying  to  phys- 
ically pry  me  off  so  he  could  throw  me  out  of  the  house  and  onto 
the  by  now  considerable  pile  in  the  driveway.  Bappie,  meanwhile, 
was  watching  all  this  in  a  sort  of  a  trance,  trying  without  much 
hope  to  make  peace  between  us.  "For  God's  sake,  kids,"  she'd 
say.  "Will  you  please  knock  it  off?  This  is  disgraceful^ 

It  sure  was.  But  I  wasn't  giving  up,  and  neither  was  Frank. 
Finally,  having  failed  to  pry  me  off  my  doorknob,  he  tried  an- 
other tack.  "The  police,"  he  yelled.  "I'm  going  to  call  the  police." 

"Great  idea,"  I  said.  "Call  the  police.  Call  the  fucking  police." 

Frank  rushed  over  to  the  phone.  And  right  back  into  the  mid- 
dle of  this,  stepping  gingerly  over  my  personal  effects,  was  poor 
Ben  Cole.  Could  he  reclaim,  he  asked  apologetically,  the  cold 
chicken  Lana  had  bought  for  a  late  supper  between  her,  Ben,  and 
the  boyfriend,  not  to  mention  the  bottle  of  ice-cold  vodka  that 
she  had  left  behind?  Would  we  mind  if  he  took  these  things  with 

Nobody  minded.  Nobody  cared.  Take  the  chicken,  the  vodka, 
and  the  boyfriend  out  into  the  night  and  leave  the  ring  free  for 
the  main  event. 

Right  on  schedule,  the  police  arrived.  Police  chief  Gus  Kett- 
man,  who  happened  to  be  a  friend  of  Frank's,  was  in  charge.  He 
had  a  worried  frown  on  his  face,  but  his  manner  was  cool  as  you 
please.  He  could  see  he  had  a  delicate  situation  on  his  hands.  He 
struggled  through  our  debris,  came  inside,  and  immediately  fig- 
ured out  from  his  wide  experience  of  life  in  Palm  Springs  that  he 
had  a  classic  drunken  brawl  to  deal  with. 

Since  this  whole  ruckus  had  taken  place  on  private  property, 
with  no  one  hurt  and  nothing  damaged  except  a  few  personal 
feelings,  the  chief  really  couldn't  do  anything  except  try  and  calm 
things  down.  He  came  closer  and  said,  "Now  listen,  Frank.  This 
is  absurd.  This  had  got  to  stop." 

Then,  looking  reproachfully  at  me,  he  added,  "Ava,  why  don't 
you  calm  down?" 



"Calm  down!"  I  replied  with  enviable  dignity.  "I  am  calm. 
Can't  you  see  how  calm  I  am?  I'm  simply  leaving  this  house,  but 
I'm  taking  my  personal  possessions  with  me." 

Finally,  the  chief  got  Frank  back  to  room  temperature  and 
Bappie  and  I  stepped  haughtily  over  the  garage  sale  in  the  drive- 
way and  made  our  way  back  to  wherever  we'd  left  the  car.  As 
you  might  imagine,  it  took  Frank  and  me  a  little  time  to  make  up 
after  that  escapade. 

The  man  who  helped  make  it  happen  was,  of  all  people,  Adlai 
Stevenson,  the  Democratic  candidate  for  President.  Both  Frank 
and  I  were  firm  Democrats  in  those  days,  and  when  Adlai's  office 
asked  if  we  would  turn  up  at  a  Hollywood  for  Stevenson  rally  at 
the  Palladium  in  Los  Angeles,  we  said  yes.  Not  that  my  support 
was  all  that  important.  I  just  slid  onto  the  stage  in  a  strapless 
gown  of  black  silk  with  the  mink  stole  Frank  had  given  me  as  an 
engagement  present,  and  said,  "Ladies  and  gentlemen,  I  can't  do 
anything  myself,  but  I  can  introduce  a  wonderful,  wonderful 
man.  I'm  a  great  fan  of  his  myself.  My  husband,  Frank  Sinatra." 

Frank  then  sang  "The  Birth  of  the  Blues"  and  "The  House  I 
Live  In"  and  nearly  brought  the  house  down.  That  was  the  man  I 



rank  Sinatra  and  I  might  well  have  had,  as 
one  Hollywood  wag  put  it,  the  most  on- 
again,  off-again  marriage  of  the  century, 
but  it  always  struck  me  as  fascinating  the  way  our  lives  seemed  to 
double  back  and  reconnect  with  each  other.  Just  by  chance,  for 
instance,  the  summer  of  1952  saw  us  both  beginning  to  get  in- 
volved in  our  most  important  film  projects  to  date,  me  with 
Mogambo  and  Frank  with  From  Here  to  Eternity. 

Frank  had  been  wildly  excited  about  James  Jones's  tough  best- 
selling  novel  about  the  dark  side  of  army  life  in  Hawaii  on  the 
eve  of  World  War  II  ever  since  it  had  come  out  in  1951.  He  fell  in 
love  with  the  character  of  Angelo  Maggio,  the  skinny  Italian  kid 
from  New  Jersey  who  wouldn't  play  the  patsy  for  anyone.  He 
knew  that  director  Fred  Zinnemann  was  planning  a  movie  and  he 
became  obsessed  with  playing  Maggio,  so  much  so  that  he  was 
prepared  to  do  anything,  even  commit  the  ultimate  Hollywood 
sin  of  working  for  practically  nothing,  to  get  the  role.  I  found  this 
strange,  because  Frank  had  never  been  that  crazy  about  acting, 
but  he  knew  he  was  Maggio  and  besides,  he  was  dying  to  do  a 
straight  dramatic  part  and  escape  from  the  typecasting  he'd  been 
subjected  to  in  musicals.  Not  to  mention  that  his  career  didn't 
seem  to  be  going  anywhere  else  at  that  particular  moment. 

I  decided  to  try  and  get  into  the  act  and  influence  the  dread 
Harry  Cohn,  who  was  the  head  of  Columbia,  the  movie  company 
making  From  Here  to  Eternity.  I  knew  Joan  Cohn,  Harry's  wife, 
reasonably  well:  I'd  been  to  their  house  for  a  few  parties,  and 



they  lived  quite  close  to  us  in  Coldwater  Canyon.  We  weren't 
bosom  friends,  but  I  knew  I  could  talk  to  Joan,  that  she  would  be 
sympathetic.  Through  Joan  I  got  to  Harry,  but  he  was  dead  set 
against  the  idea. 

"Just  test  Frank,55  I  pleaded.  "Just  give  him  a  test.55 

"Why  should  I?  The  idea's  ridiculous.  Frank's  a  singer,  not  a 
dramatic  actor." 

"Frank  can  act,  and  he  knows  he  can  play  this  part  better  than 
anyone  else.55 

"It's  too  late.  Fve  already  cast  the  role.  Eli  Wallach  has  got  it 
and  I'm  happy  with  him.5' 

I  went  away  but  I  wasn't  finished.  I  knew  Joan  was  on  my 
side;  after  all,  all  we  were  asking  for  was  a  test.  So  I  niggled  and 
niggled  at  Harry  Cohn,  and  I  even  said,  "For  God's  sake,  Harry, 
I'll  give  you  a  free  picture  if  you'll  just  test  him." 

Frank  had  made  his  own  appeal,  and  offered  to  do  the  film  for 
a  giveaway  salary  of  a  thousand  dollars  a  week.  A  lot  of  other 
people  intervened,  but  director  Fred  Zinnemann  wasn't  con- 
vinced. Still,  as  long  as  Eli  Wallach  wasn't  signed,  I  felt  Frank 
had  a  chance. 

Meanwhile,  I  was  preparing  to  film  Mogambo,  a  picture  I  felt 
a  special  attachment  to.  After  all,  I  still  remembered  sneaking 
into  the  theater  balcony  in  Smithfield,  Virginia,  in  1932  and 
swooning  as  my  hero  Clark  Gable  tried  to  decide  between  Jean 
Harlow  and  Mary  Astor  in  Red  Dust.  And  Mogambo,  which, 
depending  on  who  you  asked,  apparently  meant  either  "passion" 
or  "to  speak"  in  Swahili,  was  nothing  less  than  a  bare-faced  re- 
make of  Red  Dust,  with  Gable  repeating  his  gruff  masculine  role, 
Grace  Kelly  taking  the  old  Mary  Astor  part,  and  me  sitting  in  for 
poor  Jean  Harlow. 

Instead  of  taking  place,  as  Red  Dust  did,  on  a  rubber  planta- 
tion in  the  Malay  Peninsula,  Mogambo  was  set  among  the  white 
hunters  of  Africa.  And  instead  of  being  shot  on  the  Metro  back 
lot,  it  was  truly  going  to  be  photographed  where  it  was  supposed 
to  take  place,  or,  as  the  ads  later  blared,  "Actually  filmed  by 
MGM  on  safari  in  Africa  amid  authentic  scenes  of  unrivaled  sav- 
agery and  awe-inspiring  splendor."  What  that  meant  to  me,  how- 
ever, was  that  I  had  to  submit  to  a  hellacious  series  of  shots  for 
smallpox,  yellow  fever,  cholera,  typhus,  typhoid,  and  God  knows 
what  else. 



Since  nothing  seemed  to  be  happening  with  Frank's  From  Here 
to  Eternity  screen  test,  he  decided  he  might  as  well  go  to  Africa 
with  me,  shots  and  all.  So  we  flew  into  Nairobi,  Kenya,  right 
around  the  time  of  our  first  wedding  anniversary  and  joined  up 
with  the  fifty-plus  trucks  that  were  going  to  take  us  to  Uganda, 
the  film's  primary  location,  seven  hundred  miles  away. 

The  whole  damn  trip  was  what  the  publicists  liked  to  call  the 
greatest  safari  of  modern  times,  and  I  wasn't  about  to  argue.  Not 
only  did  it  take  eight  genuine  white  hunters  to  get  us  in  gear,  but 
once  we  settled  our  encampment  was  three  hundred  tents  strong. 
And  if  you  think  those  were  just  for  sleeping,  think  again.  My 
God,  we  had  tents  for  every  little  thing  you  could  think  of:  dining 
tents,  wardrobe  tents  with  electric  irons,  a  rec  room  tent  with 
darts  for  the  Brits  and  table  tennis  for  the  Yanks,  even  a  hospital 
tent  complete  with  X-ray  machine,  and  a  jail  tent  in  case  any- 
body got  a  tiny  bit  too  rowdy. 

I  really  shouldn't  joke  about  security,  because  there  were  gen- 
uine worries  for  our  safety  in  Africa.  The  movie  company  had  its 
own  thirty-man  police  force,  and  when  we  first  got  to  what  was 
then  British  East  Africa  we  were  under  the  protection  of  both  the 
Lancashire  Fusiliers  and  the  Queen's  African  Rifles.  The  Mau 
Mau  uprising  was  just  getting  started,  and  everyone  in  the  cast 
was  issued  a  weapon.  Clark,  an  experienced  hunter,  got  a  high- 
powered  hunting  rifle,  while  they  gave  me  a  presumably  more 
ladylike  .38  police  special  revolver. 

That  was  just  like  Metro,  thinking  of  everything.  They  brought 
in  three  copies  of  everyone's  costumes  just  in  case  and  built  an 
eighteen-hundred-yard  air  strip  in  the  middle  of  the  jungle  in  a 
whirlwind  five  days.  Every  day,  supplies  and  mail  were  flown  in 
from  Nairobi  on  sturdy  old  DC3s,  and  exposed  film  stock,  care- 
fully packed  in  dry  ice,  would  be  flown  out.  The  film's  expense 
account  even  had  a  notation  of  five  thousand  African  francs 
(fourteen  dollars  and  change  in  those  days)  written  off  as  "gra- 
tuities to  witch  doctors  for  favorable  omens." 

And,  for  once,  as  much  attention  had  been  paid  to  the  John 
Lee  Mahin  script  as  to  the  logistics.  I  don't  know  if  I'd  describe 
the  rivalry  between  Gracie  and  me  quite  the  way  the  ads  did — 
"They  fought  like  sleek  jungle  cats!  A  flaming  love  feud!  The 
jungle  strips  two  civilized  women  of  all  but  their  most  primeval 
instincts!" — but  we  sure  had  fun  battling  it  out. 



The  film  starts  without  either  of  us  on  the  scene,  as  the  movie 
introduces  the  virile  white  hunter  Victor  Marswell,  played  by 
Clark,  who  hunts  animals  for  zoos  and  is  man  enough  to  deck 
insubordinates  with  one  punch  if  they  need  that  kind  of  treat- 
ment. Which,  the  movies  being  the  movies,  they  inevitably  do. 

Irked  that  a  prize  black  leopard  has  gotten  away,  Vic  returns 
to  the  compound  in  a  hell  of  a  bad  mood.  His  temper  is  not 
improved  when  he  spots  first  my  luggage,  then  my  clothes,  and 
finally  my  underwear  strewn  across  his  room.  I'm  out  on  the 
back  porch,  making  good  use  of  a  makeshift  shower.  "Eloise 
Kelly,"  I  say  by  way  of  introduction,  "better  known  in  the  plea- 
sure capitals  of  the  world  as  Honey  Bear." 

Vic  is  less  than  impressed,  and  I  am  not  any  happier  to  learn 
that  Bunny,  the  maharaja  I've  flown  all  the  way  from  New  York 
to  accompany  on  safari,  has  had  to  make  an  emergency  trip  back 
home*  "This  is  going  to  be  the  gayest  week  of  the  season/'  I  say 
with  Honey  Bear's  usual  dose  of  sarcasm.  And,  truth  be  told,  Vic 
is  less  than  impressed  with  my  kind  of  girl  as  well.  "They  cover 
the  world  like  a  paint  advertisement,"  he  tells  one  of  his  white 
hunter  pals.  "There's  not  an  honest  feeling  from  her  kneecap  to 
her  neck." 

Needless  to  say,  despite  my  brave  warning  of  "Look,  buster, 
don't  you  get  overstimulated  with  me,"  not  much  time  is  allowed 
to  pass  before  Vic  and  Honey  Bear  fall  into  each  other's  arms. 
But  though  I  start  to  get  a  little  soft  on  the  big  lug,  he  is  having 
no  such  thoughts  about  me,  and  by  the  time  the  boat  out  shows 
up,  he  insists  that  I  be  on  it. 

"Take  it  easy,  Kelly,"  he  says,  patting  my  knee  on  the  gang- 
plank. "Drop  me  a  line."  Then  he  gives  me  money  for  plane  fare 
home  and  says,  "I'll  brain  you  if  you  don't  take  it.  Call  it  a 
ninety-nine-year  loan."  I  snap  back,  just  as  romantically,  "This  is 
one  loan  111  pay  back  if  I  have  to  live  ninety-nine  years  to  do  it." 

Getting  off  the  boat  just  as  Fm  getting  on  are  British  an- 
thropologist Donald  Nordley,  played  by  Donald  Sinden,  and  his 
attractive  young  wife  Linda,  which  is  Gracie's  part.  Poor  Donald 
passes  out  with  some  mysterious  jungle  fever  practically  the  min- 
ute he  steps  ashore,  which  allows  Vic  to  fall  for  Linda,  a  goody- 
goody  type  who  is  prone  to  saying  things  like,  "At  certain  times, 
jokes  are  in  very  poor  taste." 

Then,  like  a  bad  penny,  I  show  up  again,  courtesy  of  a  boat 



that  won't  float.  "The  Return  of  Frankenstein,"  I  announce 
grandly  at  my  reappearance.  "Shipwrecked  and  me  without  a 
desert  island  to  my  name."  Vic,  naturally,  is  not  happy  about  my 
arrival,  and  when  he  cautions  me  to  have  a  little  respect  for 
Linda's  delicate  sensibilities,  I  snap  back  that  "I'll  act  like  your 
sister,  down  from  Vassar  for  the  holidays." 

You  can  probably  guess  what  happens  from  here  on  in.  Vic 
and  Linda  dance  around,  not  being  quite  able  to  decide  how  se- 
rious a  play  they  should  make  for  each  other.  Finally,  when  she 
shoots  Vic  in  the  arm  in  a  jealous  fit  after  finding  him  flirting 
with  me,  I  reveal  my  true  nobility  by  claiming  she  did  it  because 
he'd  made  what  they  used  to  call  unwelcome  advances.  Her  mar- 
riage is  saved,  good  old  Vic  views  me  with  new  respect,  and  even 
though  I've  gone  on  the  record  as  saying,  "The  only  lions  I  want 
to  see  again  are  two  in  front  of  the  Public  Library,"  I  end  up 
staying  on  in  Africa  with  my  guy. 

For  someone  with  my  naturally  irreverent  temperament,  play- 
ing a  sassy,  tough-talking  playgirl  who  whistles  at  men,  drinks 
whiskey  straight  from  the  bottle,  and  says  about  wine,  "Any 
year,  any  model,  they  all  bring  out  my  better  nature"  was  a  gift 
from  the  gods.  I  never  felt  looser  or  more  comfortable  in  a  part 
before  or  since,  and  I  was  even  allowed  to  improvise  some  of  my 
dialogue.  Yet  if  you  would  have  told  me  that  I'd  feel  this  way 
about  a  film  directed  by  John  Ford,  I  would  have  sent  you 
straight  to  Artie  Shaw's  psychiatrist. 

John  Ford,  familiarly  known  as  Jack,  was  one  of  the  crustiest 
sons  of  bitches  ever  to  direct  a  film,  and  he  directed  plenty  of 
them.  On  the  job  since  1917,  he'd  turned  out  classics  like  The 
Informer,  Stagecoach,  The  Grapes  of  Wrath,  and  How  Green 
Was  My  Valley,  winning  four  Oscars  in  the  process.  He  liked  to 
say  he  was  just  a  hard-nosed,  hardworking,  run-of-the-mill  direc- 
tor, but  a  lot  of  people  around  Hollywood  considered  him  the 
best  in  the  business,  and  when  he  worked  with  actors  like  John 
Wayne,  he  could  do  no  wrong.  He  could  also  be  the  meanest  man 
on  earth,  thoroughly  evil,  but  by  the  time  the  picture  ended,  I 
adored  him. 

It  turned  out  that  Ford  hadn't  wanted  me  at  all.  He  wanted 
Maureen  O'Hara,  and  he  wasn't  shy  about  letting  that  be 
known.  He  adored  Gracie,  but  he  was  very  cold  to  me.  He  called 
me  in  to  see  him  before  shooting  began  and  he  didn't  even  look 



at  me.  Ail  he  said  was,  "You're  going  to  be  overdressed."  Just 
cold,  and  that  was  all 

So  I  went  back  to  my  room  and  talked  it  over  with  Frank.  I 
told  him,  "I'm  going  to  talk  to  Ford."  Then  I  stomped  in  and  I 
said,  "I'm  just  as  Irish  and  mean  as  you  are.  I'm  not  going  to  take 
this.'  I'm  sorry  if  you  don't  like  me— I'll  go  home." 

He  just  looked  up  at  me  as  if  he  didn't  know  what  I  was  talk- 
ing about  and  said,  "I  don't  know  what  you  mean.  Who's  been 

rude  to  you?" 

And  when  it  came  to  the  first  day  of  shooting,  I  can  safely  say 
that  no  picture  in  which  I  was  ever  involved  got  off  to  a  worse 
start.  One  of  the  first  scenes  called  for  a  leopard  to  casually  walk 
through  the  flap  of  our  tent  while  Clark  and  I  were  sitting  on  the 
bed,  holding  hands.  Why  this  was  one  of  the  first  scenes  to  be 
shot,  111  never  know.  Maybe  the  animal  was  on  call  somewhere 
else  'and  had  to  return  to  the  wild  in  a  hurry.  At  any  rate,  he 
didn't  seem  to  understand  his  cues.  And  the  upshot  was,  the  leop- 
ard goofed,  Clark  goofed,  I  goofed,  and  the  scene  was  terrible. 

To  make  things  worse,  just  as  Ford  snapped,  "Print  the  last 
take,"  the  lighting  man  said  apologetically,  "I'm  sorry,  Mr.  Ford, 
but  the  key  light  went  out  in  the  middle  of  it." 

As  I  got  off  the  bed  I  said,  quite  casually,  I  thought,  "Oh,  boy, 
that  was  a  real  fuckup.  We  goofed  everything." 

Not  the  most  politic  thing  to  say,  especially  on  a  Jack  Ford  set. 
Because  Jack  thought  the  remark  was  directed  at  him.  He  decided 
I  had  to  be  put  firmly  in  my  place. 

"Oh,  you're  a  director  now,"  he  said  scornfully.  "You  know 
so  fucking  much  about  directing.  You're  a  lousy  actress,  but  now 
you're  a  director.  Well,  why  don't  you  direct  something?  You  go 
sit  in  my  chair,  and  I'll  go  and  play  your  scene." 

All  this  was  said  in  a  loud  voice  in  front  of  the  cast  and  the 
crew  and  everybody.  Every  face  was  frozen,  but  nobody  dared 
say  a  word.  And  Ford  wouldn't  stop:  he  went  on  ranting  like  a 
madman.  The  only  thing  that  ended  the  whole  charade  was  Mr. 
Clark  Gable.  He  put  his  arm  around  me,  gave  me  a  squeeze,  and 
walked  off  the  set.  And  when  Clark  marched  that  was  the  end  of 
the  scene,  because  as  a  man  and  an  actor  he  wasn't  known  as 
The  King  for  nothing.  His  behavior  on  a  set  was  always  impecca- 

Now  Jack  Ford  was  in  such  a  fury  that  he  didn't  know  what  to 



do.  The  fact  that  the  key  light  was  out  meant  the  scene  had  to  be 
reshot.  So  he  closed  down  the  whole  set,  and  everybody  left.  I 
went  back  to  my  tent  and  sat  there  thinking,  What  the  hell  have  I 
done  wrong  to  incur  this  sort  of  fantastic  fury?  Then,  about  an 
hour  later,  the  assistant  director  arrived  with  a  message.  "Mr. 
Ford  says  would  you  please  come  back  on  the  set.  They're  ready 
for  another  shot." 

I  said,  "Sure,"  and  went  quietly  back  to  the  set.  It  went  like  a 
dream.  First  take,  no  problems.  Even  the  leopard  behaved  him- 
self. He  gave  me  a  contemptuous  look  as  he  prowled  through — 
probably  thought  I  was  too  skinny  to  bite — and  that  was  that. 

Jack  and  I  took  a  little  longer  to  make  up.  I  had  a  hard  few 
days  before  he  took  me  aside  and  said,  "You're  damn  good.  Just 
take  it  easy."  From  that  moment  on,  we  got  along  fine.  I  guess 
that's  how  he  worked.  He  had  to  be  top  man — and  why 
shouldn't  he  be?  He  just  wanted  to  make  sure  I  knew  it.  He  was 
big.  If  he  hated  you,  he  let  you  know  it  and  made  you  fight  with 
him.  The  only  people  I  didn't  like  were  the  nitty  ones  who  never 
let  you  know.  You  could  never  fight  with  them. 

It  was  great  working  with  Clark  again — he  will  always  be  my 
Sir  Galahad.  But  as  far  as  romance  went,  Clark's  eyes  were  quite 
definitely  on  Gracie,  and  hers,  for  that  matter,  were  on  him.  They 
were  both  single  at  the  time,  and  it's  very  normal  for  any  woman 
to  be  in  love  with  Clark.  But  Gracie  was  a  good  Catholic  girl, 
and  she  was  having  a  hard  time  feeling  the  way  she  did  about 
Clark.  Not  to  mention  that  being  in  Africa,  with  exotic  flora  and 
fauna  all  over  the  place,  and  Clark,  strong  and  smiling  and  com- 
pletely at  home,  made  her  love  him  more. 

I  remember  on  Gracie's  birthday  we  got  a  bottle  of  champagne 
from  some  bootlegger,  and  she  and  Clark  and  Jack  Ford  and  I 
had  a  little  party  out  in  the  tent.  Later,  we  did  the  same  thing  for 
mine.  And  after  that,  no  matter  where  in  the  world  I  was,  every 
year  a  birthday  present  would  arrive  from  Grace.  She  never  for- 
got, and  every  year  at  Christmas  she  sent  a  handwritten  card,  not 
left  for  a  secretary  to  do.  She  was  a  great  lady,  and  also  great  fun, 
but  she  was  never  much  of  a  drinker,  though  she  tried  hard.  Her 
little  nose  would  get  pink,  she'd  get  sick,  and  we'd  have  to  rescue 
her.  Or  she'd  get  easily  hurt  and  do  my  trick  and  run  off  into  the 

Clark  would  catch  on  after  a  few  seconds  and  say  to  me, 



"Sugar,  where's  she  gone?  This  is  Africa;  she  can't  just  run  off  in 
Africa."  So  Fd  go  off  and  find  her  and  bring  her  back  before  the 
lions  ate  her. 

Thank  God,  everyone  in  the  cast  got  along  famously,  because 
filming  in  Africa  was  not  exactly  an  experience  I'd  want  to  re- 
peat. If  nothing  else  there  was  the  heat,  so  intense  (anywhere 
from  one  hundred  and  ten  to  one  hundred  and  thirty  degrees) 
that  the  company  used  up  literally  gallons  of  cold  cream  to  keep 
everyone's  complexion  from  burning  up.  And  when  it  wasn't  hot, 
it  rained,  and  in  just  a  few  hours  everything  turned  to  mud  so 
deep  it  was  impossible  to  move  cameras,  trucks,  or  people.  And 
don't  forget  the  wild  animals.  I  had  to  hang  a  lantern  in  front  of 
my  tent  to  discourage  the  local  lions,  and  one  day  a  trio  of  rhinos 
ganged  up  on  the  camera  car  and  nearly  killed  poor  Bob  Surtees, 
the  cameraman. 

When  it  came  to  crises,  however,  I  was  soon  face  to  face  with 
the  most  personal  one  of  my  life:  I  discovered  I  was  pregnant.  I 
was  only  a  week  or  so  late,  but  all  the  signs  were  there  and  I  just 
knew.  I  also  knew  that  if  I  was  going  to  do  anything  about  it,  I 
had  to  do  it  now.  Frank  had  gone  back  to  Hollywood — the  invi- 
tation to  test  for  From  Here  to  Eternity  had  finally  come 
through.  I  hadn't  told  him  and  I  wasn't  going  to  tell  him.  He  had 
enough  troubles  of  his  own.  I  sat  in  my  tent  and  tried  to  think 
about  it  rationally.  And  it  was  hard. 

I  had  the  strongest  feelings  about  bringing  a  child  into  the 
world.  I  felt  that  unless  you  were  prepared  to  devote  practically 
all  your  time  to  your  child  in  its  early  years  it  was  unfair  to  the 
baby.  If  a  child  is  unwanted — and  somehow  they  know  that — it 
is  handicapped  from  the  time  it  is  born. 

Not  to  mention  the  fact  that  MGM  had  all  sorts  of  penalty 
clauses  about  their  stars  having  babies.  If  I  had  one,  my  salary 
would  be  cut  off.  So  how  would  I  make  a  living?  Frank  was 
absolutely  broke  and  would  probably  continue  to  be  (or  so  I 
thought)  for  a  long  time.  My  future  movies  were  going  to  take 
me  all  over  the  world.  I  couldn't  have  a  baby  with  that  sort  of 
thing  going  on.  Even  in  Mogambo,  the  fact  that  I  was  pregnant 
would  be  showing  quite  plainly  long  before  the  picture  was  fin- 
ished, so  Jack  Ford  had  to  be  told  for  starters.  I  felt  the  time  just 
wasn't  right  for  me  to  have  a  child.  With  that  decision  made,  the 
most  agonizing  I'd  ever  had  to  face,  I  went  to  see  my  director. 



Jack  Ford  tried  quite  desperately  to  talk  me  out  of  it. 

"Ava,"  he  said,  "you  are  married  to  a  Catholic,  and  this  is 
going  to  hurt  Frank  tremendously  when  he  finds  out  about  it." 

"He  isn't  going  to  find  out  about  it,  and  if  he  does,  it's  my 

"Ava,  you're  giving  yourself  too  hard  a  time.  I'll  protect  you  if 
the  fact  that  you're  having  a  baby  starts  to  show.  I'll  arrange  the 
scenes,  I'll  arrange  the  shots.  We'll  wrap  your  part  up  as  quickly 
as  we  can.  Nothing  will  show.  Please  go  ahead  and  have  the 

I  said,  "No,  this  is  not  the  time,  and  I'm  not  ready."  So,  reluc- 
tantly, John  let  me  go  to  London  in  late  November. 

It  was  kept  very  hush-hush.  I  don't  quite  know  who  arranged 
it  all  but  I  expect  that  MGM,  with  an  awful  lot  of  money  at 
stake,  had  a  lot  to  do  with  it.  One  of  the  secretaries  on  the  film 
whom  I'd  known  for  several  years  came  with  me,  as  well  as  one 
of  MGM's  publicity  men.  I  went  to  this  private  clinic  where  they 
put  me  to  sleep  and  took  me  to  the  operating  room.  I  woke  up  in 
my  room  thinking  that  everything  was  all  over,  and  the  doctor 
walked  in  and  said,  "Yes,  Mrs.  Sinatra,  you  are  pregnant." 

I  said,  "For  God's  sake,  I  knew  that." 

So  the  doctor  went  away,  looking  very  serious,  and  in  came 
the  psychiatrist.  In  those  days,  abortion  was  available  in  Britain 
but  it  had  to  be  performed  for  what  the  male  sex  thought  were 
the  right  reasons:  their  reasons.  Even  those  very  expensive 
London  clinics  had  to  be  careful  with  their  procedures.  And  they 
were  not  at  all  certain  I  was  there  for  the  right  reasons. 

Neither  was  the  psychiatrist. 

He  began  to  lead  me  along  the  right  lines,  but  I  wasn't  playing 
the  game.  He  asked  me  if  I  would  throw  myself  out  of  the  win- 
dow if  I  had  to  have  this  baby,  and  I  said,  "Certainly  not,"  which 
floored  him  a  bit.  He  kept  on  trying  to  lead  me  into  confessing 
my  so-called  suicidal  intentions,  but  I  wasn't  buying  that.  He  in- 
sisted that  I  tell  him  that  I  would  kill  myself  if  I  had  to  go 
through  with  having  a  child,  and  I  wouldn't,  I  said,  as  simply  as  I 
could,  "I  don't  think  it's  the  sensible  time  for  me  to  have  a  child. 
If  you  bring  a  child  into  the  world,  it's  got  to  have  a  stable  back- 
ground, loving  parents  who  can  give  it  time  and  attention.  At 
present  my  entire  life  is  one  mad  whirl,  and  it  is  going  to  be  like 
that  for  a  few  years  to  come." 



They  probably  had  to  manipulate  a  few  of  my  answers,  but  I 
got  the  operation  and  went  back  to  Africa. 

Frank  came  back  to  Africa  in  time  for  Christmas— and  my 
thirtieth  birthday— full  of  enthusiasm  and  joy.  The  test  had  been 
successful  and  the  part  of  Maggio  was  his,  partly  because  Eli 
Wallach  simply  looked  too  muscular  for  the  role.  Frank  didn't 
know  about  my  trip  to  London,  and  those  few  weeks  we  had 
together  were  easygoing  and  fun.  He  and  one  of  the  prop  men 
built  me  a  shower,  the  two  of  us  fooled  around  in  the  river  until 
a  protective  mother  hippo  chased  us  away,  and  he  helped  orga- 
nize and  conduct,  despite  local  white  supremacist  sentiment,  both 
a  black  and  a  white  Christmas  choir. 

And  then,  of  course,  the  silliest,  stupidest,  and  most  natural 
thing  happened:  I  got  pregnant  again.  Apparently,  the  reason 
that  I  hadn't  gotten  pregnant  with  my  first  two  husbands  was 
that  something  in  the  conception  department  was  tilted  the 
wrong  way.  Becoming  pregnant  the  first  time  had  tilted  it  the 
right  way,  and  now  I  was  highly  fertile. 

This  time  Frank  did  know,  and  he  was  delighted.  I  remember 
bumping  across  the  African  plain  with  him  one  day  in  a  jeep, 
feeling  sick  as  the  devil.  Right  on  the  spot,  for  the  first  and  only 
time  in  our  relationship,  Frank  decided  to  sing  to  me.  I  know 
people  must  think  that  he  did  that  sort  of  thing  all  the  time,  but 
the  man  was  a  professional  and  the  voice  was  saved  for  the  right 
occasions.  This  must  have  been  one  of  them,  because  he  sang  to 
me,  oh  so  beautifully,  that  lovely  song,  "When  You  Awake."  It 
didn't  stop  me  from  feeling  sick,  but  I've  always  remembered  that 

Yet,  despite  Frank's  feelings,  I  reached  the  same  decision  about 
my  second  pregnancy  as  I  had  about  my  first.  As  soon  as  we 
finished  Mogambo,  MGM  had  me  slotted  into  another  film  to  be 
made  overseas,  Knights  of  the  Round  Table,  which  meant  that 
Frank  and  I  would  be  separated  again  for  month  after  month. 
And  that  situation  brought  to  the  surface  all  my  old  doubts  about 
having  no  right  to  produce  a  child  unless  you  had  a  sane,  solid 
lifestyle  in  which  he  or  she  could  be  brought  up.  Frank  and  I  had 
no  such  thing.  We  didn't  even  possess  the  ability  to  live  together 
like  any  normal  married  couple.  Frank  would  arrive  home  at 
about  four  A.M.  after  a  singing  engagement  at  a  nightclub  or  con- 
cert. And  I  would  have  to  leave  the  house  at  six-thirty  A.M.  or 



earlier  to  get  to  the  studio  on  time.  Not  really  much  of  a  home 
life  there. 

I  think  Frank,  in  his  heart,  knew  what  I  was  going  to  do.  But  it 
was  my  decision,  not  his.  I  didn't  think  that  that  big  expensive 
clinic  was  prepared  for  a  second  round  of  someone  responding  to 
their  ever-so-correct  questions  with  my  incorrect  answers,  so  I 
was  checked  into  a  small  nursing  home  near  Wimbledon  where 
they  didn't  ask  any  questions  at  all.  I  knew  Frank  was  coming 
across  to  London  to  start  a  singing  tour  through  Europe,  but  I 
wasn't  sure  exactly  when.  But  clearly  someone  told  him  about 
what  I  was  doing,  because  as  long  as  I  live  I'll  never  forget  wak- 
ing up  after  the  operation  and  seeing  Frank  sitting  next  to  the 
bed  with  tears  in  his  eyes.  But  I  think  I  was  right.  I  still  think  I 
was  right. 



s  far  as  my  career  as  an  actress  went, 
Mogambo  was  probably  as  close  to  a 
pinnacle  as  anything  I've  done.  I  did  get 
nominated  for  an  Academy  Award  for  best  actress  (though  I  was 
more  relieved  than  upset  when  the  Oscar  eventually  went  to  Au- 
drey Hepburn  in  Roman  Holiday)  and  I  was  told  that  I  came 
within  one  vote  of  winning  the  New  York  Film  Critics  award, 
with  even  Bosley  Crowther  of  the  Times,  who  usually  treated  me 
like  a  bad  smell,  fighting  gallantly  in  my  defense. 

If  you  sense  a  little  ambivalence  in  my  thoughts  about  my  abil- 
ity as  an  actress,  you're  right.  On  one  level,  all  I  wanted  to  be 
was  an  actress,  and  I  often  felt  that  if  only  I  could  act,  everything 
about  my  life  and  career  would  have  been  different.  But  I  was 
never  an  actress — none  of  us  kids  at  Metro  were.  We  were  just 
good  to  look  at. 

Making  things  worse  was  that  I  really  didn't  have  the  correct 
emotional  makeup  for  acting.  If  I'd  had  more  drive,  more  inter- 
est, maybe  I  could  have  done  better,  but  I  disliked  the  exhibi- 
tionistic  aspects  of  the  business  and  the  work  was  terribly 
frightening  to  me.  My  mouth  would  always  dry  up  so  completely 
when  I  was  on  the  set  that  I  had  to  keep  lemon  juice  handy  and 
take  a  sip  from  time  to  time.  I  remember  a  cutter  once  saying, 
"Pd  like  you  to  see  what  I  have  to  take  out  of  your  scenes."  He 
ran  them  through  for  me  and  there  were  all  these  audible  clicks 
where  my  mouth  had  gone  dry. 

"I'm  afraid  there  are  two  or  three  places  where  I  just  can't  get 



the  clicks  out,"  he  said.  "Well  have  to  redub."  I  told  him  that 
even  in  redubbing  I'd  need  a  drop  of  Scotch  or  the  clicks  would 
still  be  there. 

Given  all  this,  why  did  I  keep  doing  it?  The  answer  I  usually 
gave  was,  "For  the  loot,  honey,  always  for  the  loot,"  and  there 
was  more  truth  than  poetry  in  that  remark.  I  had  to  do  some- 
thing and  I  didn't  know  how  to  do  anything  else.  I  once  thought 
about  becoming  a  nurse,  but  I  knew  I'd  vomit  every  time  a  pa- 
tient vomited  and  I  wouldn't  be  much  use.  I  could  have  been  a 
secretary  again,  brushed  up  on  my  Atlantic  Christian  College  dic- 
tation speed  of  a  hundred  and  twenty  words  per  minute.  But  I 
knew  that  would  make  me  really  crazy. 

The  truth  is  that  the  only  time  I'm  happy  is  when  I'm  doing 
absolutely  nothing.  I  don't  understand  people  who  like  to  work 
and  talk  about  it  like  it  was  some  sort  of  goddamn  duty.  Doing 
nothing  feels  like  floating  on  warm  water  to  me.  Delightful,  per- 

My  next  film  after  Mogambo,  Knights  of  the  Round  Table,  did 
nothing  to  make  me  change  my  mind  about  working.  It  was  a 
typical  piece  of  historical  foolishness,  with  folks  in  shining  armor 
like  my  old  beau  Robert  Taylor  dashing  across  the  screen  and 
sticking  each  other  in  delicate  places  with  horrible-looking  pikes. 
Costume  dramas  were  never  my  favorite  vehicles,  and  besides, 
being  married  to  Frank  left  little  room  in  my  life  for  drama  of 
any  other  kind. 

Frank  had  scheduled  a  singing  tour  of  Europe — Naples,  Rome, 
Milan,  then  Scandinavia — while  I  was  in  the  early  stages  of  film- 
ing Knights  and  I  took  a  leave  to  accompany  him.  It  was  nothing 
that  affected  the  shooting  in  any  way:  the  director  went  right  on 
filming  the  horses  charging  and  the  swords  flashing.  I  knew 
MGM  would  look  down  their  noses  at  this  sort  of  behavior,  and 
that  suspension  time  would  be  added  to  my  contract.  If  you  did 
that  often  enough,  you'd  find  yourself  under  contract  to  them  for 
the  rest  of  your  life.  But  this  was  going  to  be  another  "try-again" 
situation  for  Frank  and  a  second  honeymoon.  We  never  ever 
counted  the  "honeymoons"  we  had,  but  we  had  plenty. 

This  time,  however,  it  would  have  been  far  better  sticking  to 
the  battles  coming  from  MGM's  British  studios,  because  our  dif- 
ferent sort  of  battles  on  that  European  journey  were  horrendous. 

We  started  in  Naples,  Italy.  The  theater  was  packed  with  noisy 



patrons.  Somehow,  wherever  we  went,  the  rumor  had  been 
spread  by  an  antagonistic  press  that  Frank  Sinatra  was  past  his 
peak,  and  that  these  concerts  were  simply  a  patronizing  gesture 
that  insulted  his  fans.  And  Frank's  constant  clashes  with  press 
and  photographers  were  held  up  as  proof  of  this. 

Frank  arrived  onstage  to  sing  his  first  song.  The  applause  was 
noisy  but  not  necessarily  polite.  And,  about  halfway  through  it, 
by  a  deliberate  piece  of  stage  managing  that  nobody  warned  us 
about,  a  spotlight  suddenly  picked  me  out  of  the  audience  while 
Frank  was  in  the  middle  of  a  song. 

Immediately  the  audience  was  on  its  feet  going  wild  and  yell- 
ing, "Aval  Ava!  Aval"  It  was  me  they  wanted,  not  Frank. 

I  don't  think  Frank  has  ever  been  more  publicly  humiliated  in 
his  life.  The  noise  was  so  great  he  stopped  singing.  The  orchestra 
stopped  playing.  Frank  walked  off.  I  got  up,  left  the  theater,  and 
went  back  to  the  hotel.  After  a  pause  Frank  came  back  onstage 
and  finished  the  show. 

Wherever  Frank  and  I  went,  the  press  had  a  field  day.  They 
loved  printing  the  picture  of  the  movie  queen  and  the  man  who  a 
decade  earlier  had  been  the  idol  of  screaming  teenagers  playing  to 
half-empty  halls  and  jeering  fans.  They  were  right  about  one 
thing:  it  was  truly  a  sad  situation. 

And  let  me  say  right  now  that  these  episodes  hurt  and  hurt  and 
hurt.  Don't  think  for  a  minute  that  bad  publicity  and  endless 
criticism  don't  leave  their  claw  marks  on  everyone  concerned. 
Your  friends  try  to  cheer  you  up  by  saying  lightly,  "I  suppose  you 
get  used  to  it,  and  ignore  it."  You  try.  You  try  damned  hard.  But 
you  never  get  used  to  it.  It  always  wounds  and  hurts. 

We  came  back  to  London  under  a  terrible  cloud.  I  had  to  finish 
the  picture  and  Frank  returned  to  the  States.  As  soon  as  I  was 
done,  I  moved  heaven  and  earth  to  rejoin  him.  I'll  always  re- 
member Clark  Gable  watching  me  pack  and  saying,  "Ava,  honey, 
you  do  know  what  you're  doing,  don't  you?  You're  packing  up 
and  throwing  away  a  hundred  and  fifty  thousand  dollars  in  those 
suitcases."  That's  how  much  I  was  going  to  lose  if  I  didn't  stay 
out  of  the  country  long  enough  to  conform  to  those  damn  tax 
codes.  I  couldn't  have  cared  less.  And  besides,  I  now  had  a  new 
contract  at  Metro  that  gave  me  a  hundred  and  thirty  thousand 
dollars  per  picture.  Still  not  the  top  of  the  heap,  and  still  less  than 
the  studio  got  from  loaning  me  out,  but  enough  so  that  I  didn't 



hesitate  when  I  felt  that  returning  home  would  help  save  our 

What  a  joke.  Our  marriage  was  past  saving.  Not  even  the  great 
success  Frank  had  in  From  Here  to  Eternity,  the  part  that  eventu- 
ally won  him  an  Oscar  and  totally  revived  his  career,  could  help 
put  us  together  again.  Once  things  start  to  eat  away  at  the  facade 
of  the  marriage — things  like  overhearing  a  hotel  elevator  boy  tell 
your  husband,  "Oh,  Mr.  Sinatra,  last  time  you  were  here  it  was 
with  Miss  X" — once  you  lose  your  faith  in  what  the  man  you 
love  is  telling  you,  there  is  nothing  left  to  save. 

I  don't  think  I  ever  sat  down  and  made  a  conscious  decision 
about  leaving  Frank;  as  usual  I  simply  acted  on  impulse  and  al- 
lowed events  to  sweep  me  along.  But  I  remember  exactly  when  I 
made  the  decision  to  seek  a  divorce.  It  was  the  day  the  phone 
rang  and  Frank  was  on  the  other  end,  announcing  that  he  was  in 
bed  with  another  woman.  And  he  made  it  plain  that  if  he  was 
going  to  be  constantly  accused  of  infidelity  when  he  was  inno- 
cent, there  had  to  come  a  time  when  he'd  decide  he  might  as  well 
be  guilty.  But  for  me,  it  was  a  chilling  moment.  I  was  deeply  hurt. 
I  knew  then  that  we  had  reached  a  crossroads.  Not  because  we 
had  fallen  out  of  love,  but  because  our  love  had  so  battered  and 
bruised  us  that  we  couldn't  stand  it  anymore. 

When  you  have  to  face  up  to  the  fact  that  marriage  to  the  man 
you  love  is  really  over,  that's  very  tough,  sheer  agony.  In  that 
kind  of  harrowing  situation,  I  always  go  away  and  cut  myself  off 
from  the  world.  Also,  I  sober  up  immediately  when  there  is  gen- 
uine bad  news  in  my  life;  I  never  face  it  with  alcohol  in  my  brain. 
I  rented  a  house  in  Palm  Springs  and  sat  there  and  just  suffered 
for  a  couple  of  weeks.  I  suffered  there  until  I  was  strong  enough 
to  face  it. 

I'm  pretty  sure  it  was  Howard  Strickling,  Metro's  legendary 
publicity  director,  who  on  October  29,  1953,  issued  what  I 
thought  was  the  most  honest  and  sincere  explanation  for  our  im- 
pending divorce:  "Ava  Gardner  and  Frank  Sinatra  stated  today 
that  having  reluctantly  exhausted  every  effort  to  reconcile  their 
differences,  they  could  find  no  mutual  basis  on  which  to  continue 
their  marriage.  Both  expressed  deep  regret  and  great  respect  for 
each  other.  Their  separation  is  final  and  Miss  Gardner  will  seek  a 

I  guess  that  about  covered  it. 



I'm  not  proud  of  my  three  matrimonial  failures.  What  woman 
would  be?  I  know  I  loved  each  of  my  husbands  sincerely  and 
deeply,  but  things  like  career  crises,  the  nagging  Hollywood  spot- 
light, all  the  criticism  we  took  every  time  we  turned  around,  got 
in  the  way  of  our  genuine  feelings. 

I  suffered,  I  really  suffered,  with  all  three  of  my  husbands.  And 
I  tried  damn  hard  with  all  three,  starting  each  marriage  certain 
that  it  was  going  to  last  until  the  end  of  my  life.  Yet  none  of  them 
lasted  more  than  a  year  or  two. 

I  think  the  main  reason  my  marriages  failed  is  that  I  always 
loved  too  well  but  never  wisely.  Fm  terribly  possessive  about  the 
people  I  love  and  I  probably  smother  them  with  love.  Fm  jealous 
of  every  minute  they  spend  away  from  me.  I  want  to  be  with 
them,  to  see  them,  to  be  able  to  touch  them.  Then,  and  only  then, 
am  I  happy.  For  instance,  when  I  couldn't  get  Frank  on  the  tele- 
phone immediately,  I  wanted  to  kill  myself.  It  was  stupid,  I  sup- 
pose, but  it  was  me. 

I  knew  that  the  men  I  married  were  very  attractive  to  the  op- 
posite sex:  the  twenty  marriages  they  had  between  them  proves 
that,  if  nothing  else  does.  And  I  knew  they  had  to  face  situations 
where  the  ladies  concerned  were  practically  dragging  them  into 
bed.  I  could  rationalize  those  encounters,  but  I  couldn't  live  with 
them.  Sex  isn't  all  that  important,  but  it  is  when  you  love  some- 
one very  much. 

Perhaps  I  expected  too  much  from  my  husbands,  and  they  in- 
evitably disappointed  me.  God  knows  I've  got  so  many  frailties 
myself,  I  ought  to  be  able  to  understand  and  forgive  them  in  oth- 
ers. But  I  don't.  If  I  was  capable  and  wanted  to  give,  then  why 
couldn't  I  expect  the  same  thing  in  return?  Maybe,  in  the  final 
analysis,  they  saw  me  as  something  I  wasn't  and  I  tried  to  turn 
them  into  something  they  could  never  be.  I  loved  them  all  but 
maybe  I  never  understood  any  of  them.  I  don't  think  they  under- 
stood me. 

I  suppose  one  of  the  strangest  things  about  my  trio  of  failed 
marriages — and  in  passing  I  would  like  to  gently  point  out  that 
none  of  my  three  exes  were  asked  to  pay  a  penny  in  alimony — 
was  the  fact  that  the  marriage  bond  seemed  to  be  a  shackle  that 
manacled  us  together.  Once  divorced,  we  enjoyed  each  other  and 
retained  a  deep  friendship.  And  more  than  anyone  else,  that  was 
true  between  Frank  and  me. 



Frank  and  I  have  the  kind  of  friendship — relationship — where 
you  don't  have  to  say,  "I'm  going  to  telephone  you  every  day"  or 
"I'm  going  to  write  you  every  month,  or  every  six  months.'3 
When  you  feel  like  talking,  you  talk,  and  when  you  feel  like 
seeing  each  other,  you  do  that.  There  are  no  ties,  no  strings.  And 
there  shouldn't  be. 

We  might  have  been  in  different  cities,  different  countries,  but 
we  were  never  apart.  And  every  once  in  a  while,  Frank  would  call 
me  in  Madrid,  London,  Rome,  New  York,  wherever  I  happened 
to  be,  and  say,  "Ava,  let's  try  again."  And  I'd  say,  "Okay!"  and 
drop  everything,  sometimes  even  a  part  in  a  picture.  And  it 
would  be  heaven,  but  it  wouldn't  last  more  than  twenty-four 
hours.  And  I'd  go  running  off  again,  literally  running.  We  could 
never  quite  understand  why  it  hadn't  and  couldn't  work  out. 

Our  phone  bills  were  astronomical,  and  when  I  found  the  let- 
ters Frank  wrote  me  the  other  day,  the  total  could  fill  a  suitcase. 
Every  single  day  during  our  relationship,  no  matter  where  in  the 
world  I  was,  I'd  get  a  telegram  from  Frank  saying  he  loved  me 
and  missed  me.  He  was  a  man  who  was  desperate  for  compan- 
ionship and  love.  Can  you  wonder  that  he  always  had  mine! 



f  all  the  pictures  I've  made,  and  honey, 
you  better  believe  I  have  no  idea  exactly 
how  much  territory  that  covers,  there's 
no  doubt  that  The  Barefoot  Contessa  is  the  one  that  most  people 
identify  me  with.  That  damn  advertising  line,  "The  World's  Most 
Beautiful  Animal,"  will  probably  follow  me  around  until  the  end 
of  time. 

The  irony  of  all  this  is  that  not  only  didn't  anyone  initially 
think  of  me  for  the  part,  but  also  that  Metro,  my  always  cooper- 
ative studio,  did  its  damnedest  to  try  and  keep  me  out  of  the 
picture.  The  only  reason  I  finally  got  in  is  that  in  Joseph  L.  Man- 
kiewicz  the  studio  ran  up  against  someone  who  was  just  as  stub- 
born as  it  was. 

When  The  Barefoot  Contessa  was  first  announced  to  the  press 
by  United  Artists  in  the  middle  of  1953,  Joe  Mankiewicz  was  the 
hottest  behind-the-camera  talent  in  the  business.  Not  only  had  he 
just  finished  turning  Marlon  Brando  into  Mark  Anthony  in  Julius 
Caesar,  but  he'd  also  won  Oscars  for  both  writing  and  directing 
on  both  of  his  previous  two  pictures,  Letters  to  Three  Wives  and 
All  About  Eve,  Eve  had  taken  home  six  Oscars  that  year,  includ- 
ing best  picture,  out  of  an  all-time-record  fourteen  nominations. 
So  whatever  Joe  wanted,  Joe  usually  got,  and  finally,  after 
thinking  about  everybody  from  Elizabeth  Taylor  to  Joan  Collins, 
he  decided  that  I  was  the  best  choice  to  play  the  woman  who 
began  life  as  plain  Maria  Vargas  and  ended  it  as  the  Contessa 



To  get  me,  however,  Joe  had  to  deal  with  Metro,  and  the  bad 
blood  between  them  was  considerable.  I  heard  he'd  gotten  into  a 
hellacious  shouting  match  with  Nick  Schenck,  the  man  who 
pulled  the  financial  strings  at  Metro,  a  silver-haired  gentleman 
who'd  gotten  so  mad  at  Joe  he  actually  uttered  that  famous  line, 
"You'll  never  work  in  this  business  again." 

Even  Schenck  wasn't  powerful  enough  to  make  that  threat 
stick,  but  he  could  make  Mankiewicz's  life  a  living  hell  when  he 
tried  to  procure  my  services.  He  had  the  nerve  to  insist  on,  and  to 
get,  an  exorbitant  loanout  fee  of  two  hundred  thousand  dollars 
plus  ten  percent  of  the  gross  over  one  million  dollars.  My  God, 
even  Humphrey  Bogart,  my  costar  and  one  of  the  biggest  names 
in  Hollywood,  was  only  getting  one  hundred  thousand.  Of 
course,  when  it  came  to  my  salary,  Metro  wasn't  feeling  so  ex- 
pansive. Even  though  the  studio  ended  up  making  a  million  dol- 
lars on  the  deal,  all  I  got  out  of  it  was  sixty  thousand  dollars. 
God  but  those  bastards  could  be  stingy. 

Contessa  was  to  be  Joe's  first  film  as  writer,  director,  and  pro- 
ducer, and  he  made  damn  sure  he  had  a  solid  story  to  work  with. 
And  though  the  presence  of  a  Howard  Hughes  clone  in  the  script 
made  some  people  think  the  film  was  based  on  my  life,  it  actually 
was  much  closer  to  the  story  of  Rita  Hayworth,  who  was  dis- 
covered as  Margarita  Cansino  dancing  in  Mexico  and  ended  up 
married  to  Aly  Khan. 

The  film  opens  in  a  hell  of  a  way,  at  least  from  my  point  of 
view.  It's  my  funeral,  and  one  of  the  mourners,  whose  voice-over 
narrates  the  film,  is  Harry  Dawes,  a  tough-talking  film  director 
played  by  Bogart.  He  tells  how,  in  the  company  of  a  womanizing 
tycoon  named  Kirk  Edwards  and  Kirk's  fast-talking,  sweaty,  and 
amoral  press  agent  (a  dead  ringer,  in  Edmond  O'Brien's  Oscar- 
winning  performance,  for  Howard's  main  man  Johnny  Meyer), 
he  first  meets  Maria  Vargas  dancing  in  a  sleazy  Madrid  cabaret. 

Though  they're  never  anything  more  than  good  friends,  Harry 
and  Maria  like  each  other  immediately,  and  though  she  doesn't 
trust  Kirk  any  further  than  she  can  throw  him,  she  agrees  to  go 
to  Hollywood  for  the  inevitable  screen  test.  Without  saying  good- 
bye to  a  soul,  without  carrying  so  much  as  a  suitcase,  she  walks 
in  her  bare  feet  across  the  cobblestone  street  to  the  wailing  taxi. 

And  then,  as  it  only  does  in  pictures,  the  incredible  happens: 
under  the  name  of  Maria  D'Amata,  Maria  becomes  a  big,  big 



star.  But  though  she  spends  a  lot  of  time  In  the  company  of  very 
rich,  very  arrogant  men,  first  Kirk,  then  South  American  playboy 
Alberto  Bravano,  she  doesn't  sleep  with  them  and  she  makes  it 
clear  that  she  belongs  to  no  man.  In  fact,  the  only  place  she  feels 
safe  looking  for  love  is  back  in  the  gutter  where  she  came  from. 

Then  one  night,  in  one  of  those  glamorous  European  casinos, 
she  meets  Count  Vincenzo  Torlato-Favrini.  And  what  kind  of  a 
guy  is  he?  "He  is  a  count,  but  among  counts  he  is  a  king,"  says 
one  sad-faced  onlooker,  "just  as  among  kings  I  am  a  clown." 
Maria  thinks  this  is  the  real  thing,  and  marries  the  count  in  the 
kind  of  ceremony  I'd  always  dreamed  of  having  myself. 

Then  comes  the  bad  news.  The  count  was  in  the  wrong  place 
at  the  wrong  time  during  the  war  and  has  to  tell  his  bride  that 
"Almost  the  only  uodestroyed  part  of  me  is  my  heart."  Maria  is 
distraught,  but  thinks  she  knows  a  way  out.  She'll  have  an  affair 
with  the  count's  conveniently  available  chauffeur,  present  her 
husband  with  a  much-wanted  heir,  and  everyone  will  live  happily 
ever  after.  Unfortunately  this  count  is  very  much  the  jealous  type. 
He  kills  both  Maria  and  the  chauffeur,  and  at  the  film's  close  he 
is  led,  handcuffed,  off  to  jail. 

Though  I  loved  the  script,  felt  I  understood  the  girl  and  even 
thought  my  feet  were  pretty  enough  for  the  essential  dance  se- 
quences, when  I  arrived  in  Rome  early  in  1954, 1  was  nervous  at 
being  in  such  high-toned  company.  And  I  have  to  say  that  Mr. 
Bogart  did  not  make  my  life  any  easier.  He  was  always  needling 
me,  calling  me  the  Grabtown  Gypsy,  and  complaining  that  he 
needed  a  running  start  toward  the  set  if  he  wasn't  going  to  be 
trampled  by  my  entourage. 

Not  to  mention  that  my  usual  stage  fright  wasn't  helped  any 
when,  on  the  very  first  day  of  shooting,  he  yelled  at  the  director, 
"Hey,  Mankiewicz,  can  you  tell  this  dame  to  speak  up?  I  can't 
hear  a  goddamn  word  she  says."  That  did  a  lot  for  my  con- 
fidence. Bogart  hated  Italy  and  lived  on  ham  and  eggs  and  steak 
whenever  he  could,  but  he  certainly  knew  a  lot  more  acting  tricks 
than  I  did,  and  he  didn't  hesitate  to  use  them.  But  I  have  to  admit 
he  probably  forced  me  into  a  better  performance  than  I  could 
have  managed  without  him. 

Getting  along  with  Joe  Mankiewicz  was  also  problematical  at 
times.  I  respected  him  enormously,  but  though  he  was  clearly  the 
cerebral  type,  I  don't  think  he  ever  really  understood  me  or  my 



Insecurity  about  my  work.  One  day,  for  Instance,  Jack  Cardiff, 
our  excellent  cameraman,  came  up  to  me  and  said,  "Ava,  darling, 
I  want  to  do  a  close-close-close  close-up  of  your  face,  and  Yd 
prefer  to  have  you  and  not  a  stand-in  for  the  preliminary  work. 
It'll  take  a  little  time,  and  you've  got  to  sit  on  the  edge  of  that 
sofa.  Do  you  mind?" 

"No  problem,"  I  told  him. 

So  I'm  sitting  there  looking  pensive,  waiting  for  Jack  Cardiff  to 
finish  fiddling  with  his  lens,  when  Mankiewicz  spots  me  as  he's 
hurrying  by  and  says,  and  not  in  the  friendliest  way  either, 
"You're  the  sittln'est  goddamn  actress  I've  ever  worked  with."  1 
was  so  surprised  I  couldn't  even  get  my  mouth  open  in  time  to 
say  "Go  fuck  yourself"  to  his  departing  back.  And  the  truth  is  I 
was  never  able  to  give  him  my  complete  trust  after  that. 

Some  of  the  scenes  in  The  Barefoot  Contessa  were  among  my 
all-time  personal  favorites,  especially  the  one  where  I  had  to  per- 
form a  flamenco-style  dance  wearing  a  tight  sweater  and  a  cheap 
satin  skirt,  enticing  my  partner,  luring  him  closer,  swirling  out  of 
his  grasp,  taunting  him  with  my  body. 

Not  only  was  I  getting  personally  more  and  more  intoxicated 
by  the  romantic  rhythms  of  flamenco,  but  this  was  the  first  time 
I'd  ever  danced  in  a  film,  so  I  practiced  every  night  on  those  cold 
Roman  floors  for  three  full  weeks.  We  shot  the  scene  in  an  olive 
grove  In  Tivoli,  outside  Rome,  with  one  hundred  Gypsies  beating 
time  to  a  photograph  record.  When  the  phonograph  broke,  they 
kept  right  on  beating,  and  that  was  the  take  we  used. 

When  Contessa  first  came  out,  a  lot  of  people  thought  it  was 
either  too  talky  or,  like  the  good  folks  in  Tupelo,  Mississippi, 
who  banned  it  from  their  town,  too  risque  for  public  consump- 
tion. These  days,  the  film  seems  to  be  one  of  those  late-night 
classics;  if  you  show  anything  enough  times,  it  does  become  pop- 
ular. The  French,  however,  immediately  took  to  it  with  both  feet, 
with  people  like  Francois  Truffaut  calling  me  "Hollywood's  most 
exquisitely  beautiful  actress."  If  Mogambo  was  the  best  I  ever  did 
as  an  actress,  this  was  the  apogee  of  my  life  as  a  so-called  star. 

Stardom.  My  name  in  a  Cole  Porter  lyric,  my  footprints  in 
concrete  at  Grauman's  Chinese.  Voted  the  girl  they'd  most  want 
to  measure  for  a  new  suit  by  the  Custom  Tailors  Guild  of  Amer- 
ica, the  girl  they'd  most  like  to  be  stuck  with  at  the  top  of  the 
Empire  State  Building  by  the  United  Elevator  Operators.  Edmond 



O'Brien's  Oscar  Muldoon  didn't  know  how  right  he  was  when 
Joe's  script  has  him  say,  "Whatever  it  is,  whether  you're  born 
with  it,  or  catch  it  from  a  public  drinking  cup,  she's  got  it  and  the 
people  with  the  money  in  their  hands  put  her  there."  And  as 
someone  who's  been  there  and  back,  what  I'd  really  like  to  say 
about  stardom  is  that  it  gave  me  everything  I  never  wanted. 

What  you  have  to  understand  about  me,  honey,  is  that  I'm  a 
normal  human  being,  just  like  any  other.  Sanity  is  more  impor- 
tant to  me  than  celebrity  any  day  of  the  week,  and  I  consider  my 
personal  life  to  be  my  own  affair.  If  people  like  what  I  do  on  the 
screen,  they  can  come  to  the  box  office  and  pay  their  money.  I 
don't  feel  I  have  any  responsibility  beyond  that. 

Unfortunately,  when  your  face  and  name  are  on  posters  all 
over  the  world,  you're  treated  like  public  property.  I've  tried  to 
tell  myself  it's  ungrateful  to  complain,  that  you  accept  the  money 
and  you  should  accept  what  goes  with  it:  the  loss  of  privacy,  the 
constant  spotlight.  But  I  never  could  get  used  to  going  out  for  an 
evening  and  having  everyone  in  the  place  watching  to  see 
whether  I  took  one  drink  or  three  before  dinner.  No  one  thinks  I 
have  feelings.  They'd  read  the  magazines  and  think  they  knew  all 
about  me. 

It's  no  secret  that  I've  had  some  terrible  experiences  with  the 
press.  You  can't  understand  what  it's  like  without  living  it.  Peo- 
ple ask  the  most  amazingly  personal  questions  and  get  furious  if 
you  don't  answer.  Then,  when  I  did  put  my  trust  in  some  writers, 
discussed  all  sorts  of  things,  subjects  I  shouldn't  have  touched  on, 
everything  I  said  was  twisted  or  changed  to  infer  things  I  didn't 
mean  or  say  at  all. 

In  fact,  it  was  The  Barefoot  Contessa  that  led  to  two  of  the 
most  infuriating  encounters  with  the  press  I've  ever  had.  I  was 
doing  a  publicity  tour  all  over  South  America  for  the  film,  which 
went  fine  until  we  got  to  Rio.  United  Artists  had  not  put  us  into 
the  hotel  I'd  asked  for,  but  rather  into  some  hellhole  that  reeked 
of  stale  tobacco  and  had  more  cigarette  burns  than  the  entire 
state  of  North  Carolina.  So  I  very  calmly  moved  out  and  went 
directly  to  the  one  I  preferred. 

The  newspapers  the  next  morning,  however,  told  an  entirely 
different  story.  I  had  arrived  drunk,  disorderly,  and  barefoot 
(that  much  was  true;  my  heel  had  broken  off  when  I  was  mobbed 
at  the  airport).  I  had  gone  on  a  rampage  and  the  hotel  manage- 



ment,  all  too  eager  to  provide  the  photographs  to  prove  their 
point,  had  had  no  choice  but  to  eject  me. 

What  had  really  happened  is  that  as  a  kind  of  revenge  for  what 
they  perceived  as  my  slight,  the  management  had  sent  in,  within 
an  hour  after  we'd  left,  a  real  wrecking  crew.  They'd  broken 
every  mirror,  strewn  whiskey  bottles  everywhere,  destroyed  fur- 
niture, literally  torn  the  place  apart. 

Never  mind  that  if  we'd  been  given  axes  and  a  week  to  try  and 
smash  the  place  up  we  would  never  have  made  near  the  mess 
they'd  made,  everyone  believed  the  headlines.  Not  even  the  press 
conference  I  held  or  an  apology  from  the  Brazilian  government 
could  keep  that  lie  from  beating  the  truth  all  the  way  around  the 

Then  no  sooner  did  I  get  back  to  New  York  after  that  tour 
than  I  got  a  phone  call  from  Sammy  Davis,  Jr.  He  had  stood  by 
Frank  at  his  darkest  moments,  and  he  had  also  taken  the  time — 
which  I  thought  was  terribly  sweet — to  have  little  gold  loop  ear- 
rings made  for  my  wedding.  They  had  "A.S."  on  them,  too,  for 
Ava  Sinatra. 

So  when  Sammy  called  up  and  asked  if  I  would  do  the  Christ- 
mas cover  of  Ebony,  I  felt  I  had  to  agree.  He  came  in  with  a 
whole  troupe  of  photographers,  and  they  made  an  awful  mess 
covering  one  whole  wall  of  our  hotel  with  a  sheet  of  red  paper.  I 
found  a  red  dress  somewhere,  he  put  on  a  Santa  Glaus  beard  and 
a  red  suit,  and  we  did  the  cover  as  well  as  some  informal  shots 
for  the  inside  of  the  magazine — Sammy  sitting  on  the  arm  of  my 
chair  with  his  hand  around  the  back,  stuff  like  that. 

What  I  hear  next  is  that  somehow  these  pictures  have  gotten 
into  the  hands  of  a  trash  publication  called  Confidential.  Natu- 
rally, it  was  Howard  Hughes  who  broke  the  news  to  me  in  his 
most  serious  voice.  As  a  means  of  self-protection,  he  had  planted 
spies  inside  the  publication,  and  he  knew  exactly  what  was  coin- 
ing out  in  every  issue. 

"Ava,"  he  said,  "they  are  going  to  do  a  devastating  piece  about 
you  and  Sammy  Davis,  Jr.,  not  implying  but  stating  as  truth  that 
you  and  he  are  lovers  and  have  been  for  some  time.  They  say  that 
red  wall  identifies  his  flat  in  Harlem  and  that  you  often  go  there 
and  spend  hours  with  him." 

So  I  went  to  Metro  and  the  bigwigs  called  a  meeting  the  size  of 
the  League  of  Nations.  The  lawyers  talked  for  hours  about  suing 



this  and  suing  that,  but  Howard  Strickling,  the  head  of  publicity, 
once  again  knew  exactly  what  to  say. 

"I  have  to  maintain,"  he  said,  very  quietly,  "that  perhaps  I  am 
better  versed  in  these  situations  than  most  of  us  sitting  around 
the  table.  And  really,  this  is  my  responsibility.  This  is  a  rag  that  is 
published  in  a  cellar  somewhere  [I  made  a  mental  note  to  get  him 
to  say  "sewer"  next  time]  and  has  a  circulation  of  nothing.  If  we 
sue,  it's  going  to  be  front-page  news  in  newspapers  and  maga- 
zines around  the  world,  which  is  exactly  what  they  want.  And  if 
you  win  the  case,  on  the  back  page  of  all  the  newspapers  there 
will  be  a  little  scribble  that  Ava  Gardner  won  her  suit.  In  the 
meantime,  the  story  is  plastered  all  over  the  world.  The  best  thing 
to  do  is  ignore  it  completely."  Which  is  what  we  did. 

What  is  so  maddening  about  these  things  is  that  they  take  an 
acorn,  a  little  kernel  of  truth,  and  build  an  oak  tree  of  lies.  It 
hurts  every  time  it  happens.  You  never  get  used  to  it.  Never.  And 
it  hurts  to  have  to  swallow  it  without  answering.  But  it's  best  not 

Maybe  I  just  didn't  have  the  temperament  for  stardom.  I'll 
never  forget  seeing  Bette  Davis  at  the  Hilton  in  Madrid.  I  went 
up  to  her  and  said,  "Miss  Davis,  I'm  Ava  Gardner  and  I'm  a 
great  fan  of  yours."  And  do  you  know,  she  behaved  exactly  as  I 
wanted  her  to  behave.  "Of  course  you  are,  my  dear,"  she  said. 
"Of  course  you  are."  And  she  swept  on.  Now  that's  a  star. 



he  first  time  I  met  Luis  Miguel  Domin- 
guin,  it  was  the  same  old  story  all  over 
again:  I  knew  without  a  doubt  that  he 
was  for  me.  Luis  was  tall  and  graceful  with  piercing,  watchful 
dark  eyes  which  he  liked  to  move  without  turning  his  head.  And 
he  had  a  slightly  bemused  expression  that  seemed  to  say,  "The 
American  lady  knows  I  am  interested  in  her.  I  hope  she  is  inter- 
ested in  me." 

I  damn  sure  was.  And,  frankly,  who  wouldn't  be?  Though  four 
years  younger  than  me,  Luis  Miguel  was  universally  acclaimed  as 
the  best-paid,  most-taiked-about,  most-sought-after  bullfighter  in 
the  world.  The  son  and  brother  of  successful  matadors,  a  great 
athlete  and  a  faultless  technician,  he  had  the  ability  to  make  an 
exquisitely  dangerous  sport  seem  like  child's  play.  To  see  pictures 
of  him  poised  gracefully  as  the  huge  horns  of  the  bull  slid  just 
inches  past  his  heart,  to  see  how  with  an  arrogant  arch  of  his 
body  and  a  sweep  of  the  cape  he  would  take  charge  again,  was 
breathtaking.  Not  to  mention  the  fact  that  he  was  a  cultivated 
gentleman  who,  as  someone  once  said,  spoke  four  languages  in  a 
field  where  some  people  could  barely  read  and  write.  And  he 
numbered  among  his  friends  people  like  Picasso  and  Papa  Hem- 
ingway, who  called  him  "a  combination  of  Don  Juan  and 

When  I  met  Luis  Miguel  at  a  Madrid  party  right  around  the 
time  Frank  and  I  were  breaking  up,  he  was,  having  conquered  all 
the  bullrings  in  the  world,  enjoying  the  pleasures  of  semiretire- 



ment  as  well  as  recuperating  from  a  near-fatal  goring  of  a  few 
months  before.  He  was  the  absolute  idol  of  Spain,  a  country 
whose  unspoiled  passion  I  was  beginning  to  love  more  and  more. 
He  smiled,  bowed  slightly,  and  said,  "No  English."  I  smiled  back 
and  said,  "No  espanol,"  and  that  was  pretty  much  the  way  we 
operated  for  most  of  our  relationship.  But,  as  Papa  Hemingway 
liked  to  say,  we  communicated  what  counted. 

If  I  was  part  of  Luis  Miguel's  convalescence,  he  was  part  of 
mine  after  the  goring  Frank  and  I  had  given  each  other.  Exhila- 
rated by  flamenco  music,  we  laughed,  we  drank,  we  went  places. 
I  was  his  girlfriend,  he  was  my  guy;  it  was  as  simple  as  that.  We 
were  good  friends  as  well  as  good  lovers,  and  we  didn't  demand 
too  much  from  each  other.  Luis  Miguel  was  great  fun  and  I  loved 
having  him  around.  Quite  frankly,  I  was  intrigued  by  the  fact 
that  he  didn't  seem  to  need  me  and  he  certainly  wasn't  looking 
for  publicity  like  so  many  of  the  European  men  who  came  my 
way.  !  guess  I  loved  the  easygoing  way  we  could  just  hang  out 
together  after  all  the  fuss  I'd  aroused  with  Frank.  We  stayed  in  a 
small  hotel  in  Madrid  after  I  finished  filming  Contessa,  he  and  I 
in  one  room  and  Bappie  in  another.  I  don't  think  we  even  dis- 
cussed marriage;  it  never  even  came  up.  What  was  good  at  that 
moment  was  good.  I  guess  that  means  I  was  growing  up.  About 
time,  too. 

The  thing  that  always  surprised  me  about  Luis  Miguel  was  his 
sense  of  humor.  It  was  more  than  outrageous,  it  was  downright 
wicked.  Take,  for  instance,  the  way  he'd  act  in  one  of  his  favorite 
Madrid  bars,  the  Cerveceria  Alemana,  a  noisy  place  packed  with 
the  whole  goddamn  bullfighting  world:  matadors,  cuadrillas, 
agents,  hangers-on,  groupies,  the  works.  Even  the  Madrid  gentry 
would  go  there  when  they  felt  like  slumming,  and  that's  when 
Luis  Miguel  would  bait  his  trap. 

Very  carefully  in  his  broken  English  he  would  explain  to  Bap- 
pie  what  she  should  say  in  Spanish  when  she  shook  hands  with 
these  dignified  ladies  and  gentlemen.  But  what  he  was  really  in- 
structing her  in  were  the  most  diabolically  obscene  phrases  he 
could  think  of  A  gracious  gentleman  and  his  equally  gracious 
wife  would  sweep  up,  Luis  Miguel  would  introduce  me  and  then 
Bappie,  who  would  shake  hands  with  the  lady  and  say  in  her  best 
Spanish,  "Good  evening,  you  big  fat  cunt." 

The  sound  level  in  the  bar  was  so  high  that  only  Luis  Miguel's 



intimates  were  close  enough  to  get  the  joke  and  collapse  in  laugh- 
ter. The  lady's  eyebrows  would  rocket  up,  putting  an  end  to  all 
conversation.  Bappie  knew  she'd  dropped  a  bombshell,  but  Luis 
Miguel  would  try  to  comfort  her,  insisting,  "Just  a  little  mis- 
take." We  were  awful  in  those  days. 

The  great  thing  about  Luis  Miguel  was  that  he  could  also  take 
a  joke  on  himself.  I  remember  one  day  at  his  breeding  farm  when 
he  was  testing  young  bulls  for  their  potential  courage  in  the  ring. 
I  was  given  the  job  of  kneeling  down  and  holding  one  end  of  the 
bullfighter's  cape,  while  Luis  Miguel  stood  up  holding  the  other. 
The  calves  would  be  let  out  one  at  a  time  and  immediately  charge 
at  the  cape.  But  Luis  Miguel  would  sort  of  shuffle  his  feet  to 
divert  the  charge  and  then  move  out  of  the  way  like  a  shadow. 
And  as  long  as  I  kept  absolutely  still,  I  was  in  no  danger. 

Luis  Miguel  had  a  cameraman  photographing  the  action,  and 
when  it  was  shown  at  the  local  cinema,  he  took  me  down  to  see 
it.  He  was  the  hero  to  end  all  heroes  in  his  hometown,  but  when 
the  audience  saw  the  brave  Ava  Gardner  on  her  knees  as  the  bull 
rushed  past — because  in  the  bullfight  only  the  bravest  matadors 
get  on  their  knees  while  facing  a  bull — they  began  to  roar  con- 
tinual "Oles"  for  me,  and  loud  shrieks  of  "Gilda"  at  Luis  Mi- 
guel. That  name  was  a  mocking  reference  to  Rita  Hayworth, 
who'd  just  appeared  in  a  very  silly  bullfighting  movie,  the  im- 
plication being  that  Luis  Miguel  had  chickened  out.  It  was  all  a 
great  joke  and  everyone  enjoyed  it,  including  Luis  Miguel.  When- 
ever the  crowd  yelled  out  "Gilda,"  he  would  stand  up  and  raise 
his  arm  in  salute. 

Then,  one  night  in  April  1954,  I  was  fast  asleep  in  bed  with 
Luis  Miguel  when  suddenly  I  was  awakened  by  terrible,  ex- 
cruciating pains  in  the  pit  of  my  stomach.  As  I  began  to  shout  in 
agony,  he  leapt  out  of  bed  and  called  a  doctor,  who  guessed  what 
it  was:  I  had  a  kidney  stone  passing  through  my  gut,  which  is  one 
of  the  most  totally  painful  experiences  known  to  man.  I  was  im- 
mediately rushed  to  a  hospital,  which  turned  out  to  be  staffed 
entirely  with  nuns.  Sweet,  implacable  ladies — their  belief  in  God 
was  absolute,  but  about  painkillers  they  were  not  so  sure.  Aspirin 
was  about  as  far  as  they  would  go. 

My  Spanish  was  awful,  and  Bappie's,  you  may  remember,  was 
even  worse.  We  had  no  way  of  communicating  with  anybody, 
except  through  Luis  Miguel,  who  somehow  seemed  to  under- 



stand  everything  I  needed.  So  the  hospital  authorities  did  what 
was  normal  in  Spanish  family  situations:  they  put  a  camp  bed  in 
my  room  and  Luis  Miguel  stayed  there  twenty-four  hours  a  day. 
He  talked  to  the  doctors,  held  my  hand  when  the  pain  got  too 
terrible,  and  tried  to  coax  some  nourishment  down  my  throat. 
And  all  this  took  place  during  the  Festival  of  San  Isidro,  when,  as 
the  bullfighter  of  his  era,  Luis  Miguel  would  have  been  cheered 
and  saluted  at  the  start  of  every  day's  events.  But  instead  he  was 
at  the  hospital  day  and  night,  looking  after  me. 

One  night  they  decided  they  had  to  X-ray  me,  but  the  pain  was 
so  awful  I  thought  I  was  going  to  die  and  I  frankly  didn't  care. 
Those  little  black  penguin  nuns  who  crept  in  and  out  all  night  to 
look  at  me  were  starting  to  get  on  my  nerves.  Jesus,  I  was  a 
wreck.  And  Luis  Miguel,  bless  him,  carried  me  to  the  X-ray 
room,  held  me  tight  and  calmed  me  down  long  enough  for  the 
technician  to  take  one  quick  picture  and  then  brought  me  back. 
Maybe  I  should  have  thought  about  marrying  the  guy  after  all. 

Luis  Miguel  left  the  hospital  only  once  during  those  two 
weeks,  and  when  he  did  he  came  back  with  Papa  Hemingway, 
who  I'd  never  met  until  then.  Though  I  obviously  wasn't  crazy 
about  the  circumstances,  I  was  delighted  to  meet  Papa  and  abso- 
lutely floored  that  he'd  take  the  time  to  visit  me  in  a  hospital.  I 
just  adored  the  man;  I  idolized  him,  in  fact,  and  we  became 
friends  from  that  moment  on. 

When  the  nuns  finally  turned  me  loose,  I  discovered  that 
Metro  had  put  me  on  suspension  for  refusing  to  play  the  singer 
Ruth  Etting  in  Love  Me  or  Leave  Me,  which  I  turned  down  be- 
cause I  was  afraid  it  would  be  just  another  fairly  standard  biogra- 
phy. Besides,  my  philosophy,  for  better  or  worse,  has  always 
been,  "If  Fm  in  love  or  having  an  affair,  I  stop  working."  It 
didn't  happen  an  awful  lot,  but  it  did  mean  that  I  didn't  rake  in 
the  money  I  should  have.  So  Luis  Miguel  put  me  on  a  plane  to 
Hollywood,  and  who  should  be  literally  waiting  for  me  when  it 
arrived  but  Howard  Hughes. 

Howard  Hughes  knew  all  about  the  kidney  stone.  Howard 
Hughes  knew  all  about  everything.  The  goddamn  CIA  could  have 
done  worse  than  hire  Howard  to  oversee  its  operations.  If  there 
was  anything  to  be  discovered,  Howard  could  ferret  it  out.  And, 
as  Reenie  used  to  say,  the  man  knew  how  to  throw  a  brick  and 
hide  his  hand. 



Howard  had  rented  a  large  house  on  the  banks  of  Lake  Tahoe 
for  me  to  recuperate  in,  and  Reenie  and  I  moved  in  in  June.  Liv- 
ing there  also  enabled  me  to  establish  a  residence  in  Nevada, 
which  facilitated  my  filing  for  a  divorce:  if  loving  Luis  Miguel 
had  shown  me  nothing  else,  it  was  that  the  marriage  between 
Frank  and  me  was  truly  over. 

If  I'd  thought — and  I  did — that  old  Howard  had  by  now  got- 
ten used  to  the  hands-off,  no-pressure  rules  Pd  imposed,  I  was 
proved  wrong  once  again.  Mr.  Hughes  was  plotting  yet  another 
old-fashioned  pincer  movement  against  my  determination  to  nei- 
ther marry  him  nor  climb  into  his  bed. 

It  started,  as  many  of  these  things  do,  with  what  would  be  an 
innocent  remark  coming  out  of  anyone's  mouth  but  Howard's. 
We  were  out  on  the  lake  in  his  boat  one  evening  and  I  couldn't 
help  but  notice  that  the  color  of  the  surface  was  an  almost  inde- 
scribably lovely  shimmering  pale  shade  of  sapphire. 

Well,  Howard  had  noticed  it,  too.  "Ava,"  he  said,  his  voice 
dripping  with  choirboy  innocence,  "do  you  see  this  beautiful 
shade  of  sapphire?" 

"Yes,"  I  said.  What  else  could  I  say? 

"It's  perfect.  More  than  that,  it  matches  your  perfection.  I 
think  I'll  try  and  find  a  sapphire  to  match  it  for  you." 

"Good  luck,"  I  said,  trying  not  to  pay  attention.  I  wasn't  try- 
ing to  mock  Howard.  He  was  a  brilliant  man,  brilliant  in  a  dozen 
ways,  with  courage  and  self-confidence  to  burn.  But  he  did 
things,  shall  we  say,  differently,  and  that  was  hard  to  get  used  to. 
Maybe  it  came  from  being  one  of  the  wealthiest  men  on  the 

Well,  at  dinner  that  night,  Howard  presented  me  with  the  per- 
fect sapphire.  All  that  preamble  on  the  lake  was  his  idea  of  a  little 
joke;  he'd  already  brought  the  damn  thing.  And,  set  with  two 
magnificent  diamonds,  one  on  either  side,  it  was  beautiful  enough 
to  take  your  breath  away. 

And,  of  course,  it  wouldn't  have  been  Howard  if  he'd  just  sent 
someone  to  Carrier  to  order  up  one  nice  blue  sapphire  and  send 
him  the  bill.  Instead,  he'd  send  his  lieutenants  scouring  the  world 
to  discover  the  perfect  stone.  Kashmiri  sapphires  are  the  very 
best,  their  beauty  legendary.  And  Howard  had  turned  up  the  one 
man  in  all  Europe  would  could  identify  a  real  Kashmiri  sapphire. 



The  one  Howard  gave  me  would  probably  be  worth  a  million 
bucks  today,  if  I  still  had  the  damn  thing. 

That  night,  though,  I  flaunted  the  jewel  a  bit  when  Howard 
and  I  went  gambling  at  the  local  casino.  Howard  loved  to  gam- 
ble, and  he  was  lucky,  too.  Can  you  beat  that?  All  that  money 
and  a  lucky  streak  to  boot.  Plus  knowing  that  if  he  did  chance  to 
lose  too  much,  he  could  always  buy  up  the  casino  and  get  his 

money  back. 

Howard  brought  me  home  after  the  gambling  was  over,  wait- 
ing in  the  driveway  for  the  dust  to  settle  before  he  let  me  open 
the  door.  Howard  had  an  antipathy  to  dust  for  health  reasons 
that  only  Howard  understood.  When  I  looked  at  him,  I  noticed 
with  some  surprise  that  he  had  tears  in  his  eyes.  He'd  won  a  lot 
at  the  tables,  so  I  wondered  what  the  hell  he  was  up  to  now. 

"Ava,"  he  said,  emotion  in  his  voice,  "I  know  you're  not  in 
love  with  me.  But  you've  already  been  married  three  times,  so  I 
wonder  if  you  could  now  consider  me?" 

Then  he  began  to  tell  me  how  many  millions  and  billions  of 
dollars  he  was  worth  until  I  got  lost  in  the  extent  of  his  holdings 
and  properties  and  God-knows-what.  Then  he  went  into  things 
that  were  more  my  style. 

"I  used  to  own  a  yacht,  with  a  captain  and  crew  and  a  great 
chef,  and  111  buy  another  one.  Well  travel  in  style  wherever  you 
want  to  go.  If  you  want  to  keep  working  in  movies,  111  buy  you 
the  best  properties  available,  the  greatest  directors,  the  best  lead- 
ing men.  You  won't  have  to  worry  about  studios  and  contracts 
and  all  that  nonsense.  You  can  have  a  wonderful  life,  and  you 
can  enjoy  every  second  of  it.  And  you  might,  eventually,  learn  to 
love  me." 

All  that  was  delivered  with  all  the  sincerity  that  Howard  could 
muster,  but  I  have  to  say  that  my  first  thought  was:  Goddammit, 
Howard's  trying  to  buy  me.  He  wants  to  make  me  one  of  his 
possessions,  and  that's  something  I  never  intend  to  let  anyone  do. 

The  dust  had  settled  by  now,  and  we  could  go  in.  I  patted  his 
hand  and  said,  "Howard,  let  me  think  about  it."  And  I  did  think 
about  it,  then  and  for  all  the  years  that  followed.  But  I  wasn't  in 
love  with  Howard,  and  I  knew  that  no  matter  how  hard  I  tried,  I 
never  could  be.  But  I  have  to  confess  it  would  be  nice  to  be  sitting 
here  in  London  thinking:  Now  how  will  I  get  away  from  this 
cold  winter  while  I  still  own  TWA? 



I  suppose  I  didn't  do  much  for  Howard's  blood  pressure  when 
I  invited  Luis  Miguel  to  come  visit  me  in  July.  But  Howard 
wasn't  really  in  Tahoe  all  that  much;  he  was  always  off  on  some 
flying  adventure  or  gigantic  financial  scheme  or,  for  all  I  know, 
tucking  in  some  of  the  babes  he  had  stashed  around.  Some  hus- 
band he  would  have  made. 

Howard  returned  soon  after  Luis  Miguel  arrived,  and  he  was 
the  soul  of  politeness.  True,  it  would  have  been  hard  for  him  to 
play  the  part  of  the  jealous  lover,  since  lovers  were  the  one  thing 
we'd  never  been.  But  on  the  other  hand,  Howard  wasn't  the  type 
to  sit  back  and  contemplate  a  situation  like  that  for  long,  either. 
If  there  ever  was  a  time  that  called  for  throwing  a  brick  and 
hiding  your  hand,  this  was  it. 

It  started  one  night  when  Luis  Miguel  and  I  returned  from  the 
casino  and  had  a  fight.  Unlike  the  fights  between  Frank  and  me, 
they  were  very  much  the  exception  with  Luis  Miguel,  but  on  this 
night  I  stormed  up  the  stairs  and  slammed  the  door  shut  behind 
me.  Now  in  the  ordinary  course  of  events  I  would  have  floated 
downstairs  next  morning  and  we'd  have  made  up  and  been  lovers 
again.  But  nothing  was  ever  ordinary  when  Howard  Hughes  was 

I  didn't  get  all  the  details  until  much  later,  but  Howard,  who 
had  the  habit  I  usually  ignored  of  planting  spies  thinly  disguised 
as  household  help  around  me,  was  immediately  told  of  our  little 
battle.  Next  thing  you  know,  his  number-one  stooge  and  full- 
time  lago,  Johnny  Meyer,  has  just  by  chance  dropped  by  to  say 

Now  you  have  to  understand  that  whatever  else  Luis  Miguel 
was,  he  was  a  very  proud  man,  and  my  storming  off  like  that 
annoyed  the  hell  out  of  him.  And  Johnny  Meyer  was  primed  to 
sprinkle  all  the  verbal  poison  he  could,  inflaming  Luis  Miguel's 
natural  indignation.  "Why  do  you  let  these  women  run  you 
around?"  he  said.  "Leave  them  alone  for  a  while,  teach  them  a 

Egged  on  by  Johnny  and  his  own  anger,  Luis  Miguel  said  that 
if  it  was  up  to  him,  he'd  leave  right  that  very  minute,  go  back  to 
Spain  and  the  hell  with  everybody  else.  Well,  surprise,  surprise — 
it  turned  out  that  the  ever-helpful  friend  in  need  Howard  Hughes 
had  a  small  plane  fueled  up  and  ready  at  the  airport  to  ferry  Luis 
Miguel  direct  to  Los  Angeles  where  he  could  make  connections 



with  a  TWA  flight  that  could  conveniently  get  him  back  to  Eu- 
rope in  a  wink.  So  when  I  came  down  the  next  morning,  there 
was  no  Lois  Miguel  You  better  believe  I  thought  it  was  odd, 
unlike  him  to  let  little  storms  permanently  darken  our  horizon. 
But  he  was  gone,  and  dear  sweet  Howard  was  right  there  and 
just  itching  to  fly  me  and  Reenie  off  to  someplace  exotic.  So  what 
the  hell. 

We  finally  ended  up  in  Miami  on  that  trip,  all  three  of  us  stay- 
ing in  a  most  beautiful  luxury  villa  with  wide  lawns  and  palm 
trees  and  a  huge  swimming  pool  We  settled  down  to  enjoy  the 
sunshine,  but  before  long  Reenie  had  a  discussion  with  one  of  the 
house's  handymen,  someone  Fd  see  around  the  place  occasion- 
ally. You  guessed  it,  he  was  one  of  Howard's  men,  but  with  an 
assignment  unlike  any  I'd  come  across  before. 

"For  God's  sake,"  he'd  told  Reenie,  "can't  you  get  that 
woman  of  yours  into  bed  with  Mr.  Hughes?  Fve  been  here  day 
and  night  for  ten  days  guarding  this  pearl-and-diamond  necklace 
that  once  belonged  to  the  Czarina  of  Russia.  It's  so  fucking  valu- 
able I  have  to  sit  there  with  a  loaded  pistol  and  not  let  it  out  of 
my  sight,  even  while  I'm  eating.  If  I  leave  it  at  all,  I  have  to  get  a 
replacement.  I  can't  see  a  broad,  I  can't  go  to  a  bar,  I  can't  even 
have  a  drink.  For  Christ's  sake,  if  you  have  any  influence  with 
her,  get  her  into  bed  with  him  so  he  can  reward  her  with  the 
necklace  and  I  can  rejoin  the  human  race." 

We'd  been  in  this  villa  for  nearly  two  weeks,  and  we  were 
getting  bored.  Even  the  loveliest  place  can  feel  like  a  prison  if  the 
circumstances  are  wrong,  and  this  necklace  business  was  the  last 

"Honey,"  I  said  to  Reenie,  "it's  time  to  make  a  move." 

Reenie  glanced  at  her  watch.  "It's  four  o'clock  in  the  morn- 

"Good,"  I  said.  "Then  we  won't  have  to  say  good-bye." 

"Where  are  we  going?"  A  not  unreasonable  question. 

"I  don't  know.  We'll  find  a  taxi  on  the  main  road  and  Fll  think 
of  somewhere." 

We  packed  our  bags  and  crept  down  the  stairs  just  as  dawn 
was  breaking.  We  tiptoed  across  the  hall  toward  the  door,  and 
suddenly  Howard  appears,  fully  dressed,  as  if  it's  the  most  nor- 
mal thing  in  the  world  to  find  his  two  female  guests  sneaking  out 
at  dawn.  The  son  of  a  bitch  must  have  had  our  goddamn  room 



"Good  morning,"  he  said  pleasantly.  "What's  this  all  about?" 

"I'm  leaving,  Howard,"  I  said  with  as  much  firmness  as  I  could 
muster.  "I'm  tired  of  this,  Fm  bored  to  death.  And  I'm  going  to 
Havana."  That  was  the  first  destination  that  flashed  into  my 

"You  are?"  he  said,  nice  as  you  please.  "I  wish  you  wouldn't." 

"I  don't  care  what  you  wish,"  I  said.  "I've  made  up  my  mind 
and  I'm  going." 

With  that,  I  pulled  off  my  lovely  sapphire  ring  and  threw  it  at 
him.  I  realize  now  that  that  was  not  the  most  charming  exit  move 
a  well-brought-up  Southern  lady  could  have  made,  not  to  men- 
tion that  it  wasn't  terribly  sensible  either.  But  in  those  days  I  did 
whatever  went  through  my  mind,  and  my  decisions  were  often 
not  all  that  sensible. 

We  didn't  get  to  the  airport  until  around  nine  in  the  morning, 
with  flights  to  Havana  supposed  to  leave  hourly.  But  what  did  we 
hear  every  hour  on  the  hour  for  the  goddamn  rest  of  the  day: 
"The  flight  to  Havana  has  been  canceled.  The  flight  to  Havana 
has  been  canceled.  The  flight  to  Havana  has  been  canceled."  Not 
a  single  flight  left  all  day  long.  Now  that  couldn't  have  been  an 
accident;  it  had  to  be  that  goddamn  son  of  a  bitch  Howard 
Hughes.  That's  the  kind  of  power  that  man  had. 

Finally,  at  eight  P.M.  that  evening,  the  loudspeaker  announced 
that  a  flight  to  Havana  was  ready  to  depart.  I  guess  Howard  had 
removed  his  ban.  "Stubborn  bitch,"  he  probably  thought.  "Let 
her  go." 

If  you  think  all  of  that  convinced  Howard  Hughes  to  get  the 
hell  out  of  my  life,  you  haven't  been  paying  attention.  No  sooner 
did  we  get  back  to  California  and  into  a  house  in  Palm  Springs 
than  who  should  come  flying  out  of  the  sun  but  my  old  friend 
Mr.  Hughes.  Of  course,  Howard  being  Howard,  the  sun  was  no- 
where in  sight  when  he  flew  in.  And  the  Palm  Springs  airport, 
with  its  small  landing  strip  and  no  landing  lights  at  all,  suited  his 
style  perfectly.  He  just  made  a  phone  call  and  twenty  cars  were 
lined  up  at  intervals  along  both  sides  of  the  runway  with  head- 
lights shining  when  he  came  in  for  a  landing. 

For  once,  Howard  had  called  me  beforehand.  "Can  you  meet 
me  when  I  land?"  he  asked.  "I've  got  something  very  important 
to  show  you  and  to  talk  about."  Since  I'd  already  turned  down  a 
fortune  in  jewelry  in  San  Francisco  and  thrown  a  priceless  sap- 
phire ring  in  his  face  and  laughed  at  a  Czarina's  necklace  in 



Miami,  I  was  naturally  curious  about  what  he  could  be  up  to 

The  plane  droned  in  and  landed  perfectly.  It  was  a  small  one 
this  time,  not  the  enormous  four-engined  monster  he  usually  pi- 
loted. Howard  came  down  the  steps  holding  tightly  to  yet  an- 
other one  of  his  ridiculous  cardboard  boxes.  He  smiled  as  he 
approached  me,  and  removed  the  lid.  Pieces  of  paper  flew  in  all 
directions,  and  he  put  the  top  back  on.  I  noticed  that  the  drivers 
of  those  twenty  cars  seemed  to  go  slightly  berserk,  chasing  these 
bits  of  paper  as  if  they  were  thousand-dollar  bills. 

"What  the  hell  are  they,  Howard?"  I  asked. 

"Thousand-dollar  bills." 

"What  the  hell  are  you  doing  with  them?" 

"Giving  them  to  you." 

I  began  to  say,  "What  the  hell  for?"  before  it  struck  me  that 
this  was  truly  one  of  the  more  ridiculous  moments  in  my  life, 
standing  there  next  to  a  cardboard  box  full  of  thousand-dollar 
bills  that  had  started  to  blow  away  like  so  much  confetti. 

"Howard,"  I  said.  "We'd  better  go  somewhere  and  talk." 

We  went  somewhere  and  talked.  Howard  said,  "Darryl  F. 
Zanuck  and  I  want  you  to  make  a  picture  with  us.  You  in  the 

Howard  was  still  clutching  his  box.  I  said,  "Howard,  how 
much  money  is  in  that  box?" 

"A  quarter  of  a  million  dollars  in  thousand-dollar  bills."  He 
took  the  lid  of  the  box  to  show  me  the  tightly  packed  interior. 

I  thought:  Well,  I  suppose  there  aren't  many  people  in  the 
world  who  have  ever  seen  a  quarter  of  a  million  dollars  all  in  one 

"Howard,"  I  said,  "what's  the  film  all  about?" 

"We  haven't  quite  decided  yet.  But  Darryl  has  some  great 

"What  about  the  script?" 

"Well,  that  hasn't  been  done  yet  either." 

"Howard,  what's  the  quarter  of  a  million  dollars  for?" 

"It's  for  you.  It's  a  bonus*" 

"Howard,"  I  said,  getting  a  bit  testy,  "if  you  want  to  make  a 
film  with  me,  you  know  what  to  do.  You  go  to  my  agent  and 
discuss  it.  You  don't  come  here  in  the  dark  offering  me  a  quarter- 
of-a-million-dollar  bonus." 



Now,  Howard  was  a  very  serious  man.  You  did  not  insult  him 
if  you  could  help  it,  or  try  and  make  a  fool  of  him  or  laugh  at 
him.  I  never  wanted  to  do  any  of  that,  so  I  pulled  back  and  said, 
"Anyway,  it's  nice  to  see  you  again,  Howard.  I've  got  to  get  back 
now.  You  take  care."  After  all,  once  you've  resisted  all  the 
jewelry  in  the  world,  what  the  hell  difference  does  turning  down 
a  quarter  of  a  million  dollars  make?  I  would  do  the  same  thing 
today  ...  I  think. 



howani  Junction  was  a  film  with  a  split  per- 
sonality as  far  as  Metro  was  concerned.  On 
the  one  hand,  as  befitted  the  studio's  biggest 
production  of  1956,  they  were  happy  to  ballyhoo  it  as  an  epic, 
with  ads  shouting,  'Two  Years  in  Production!  Thousands  in  the 
Cast!"  But  on  the  other  hand,  it  had  me  in  it,  didn't  it?  Which 
meant  lurid  copy  lines  on  the  order  of  "Half-Caste  Beauty  and 
Her  Three  Loves"  and  "Ava  .  .  .  enticing  .  .  .  primitive  ...  she 
must  choose  .  .  .  one  world  to  live  in  ...  one  man  to  love!"  Oh, 

Actually,  though  you'd  never  know  it  from  all  that,  Bhowani 
Junction  was  one  of  my  more  serious  films,  one  that  allowed  me 
to  get  more  emotionally  involved  in  a  part  than  I  usually  did. 
Partly  that's  because  George  Cukor  was  the  director.  I'd  known 
George  socially  for  years  and  had  an  enormous  amount  of  re- 
spect for  his  ability.  After  all,  Bhowani  Junction  was  his  thirty- 
eighth  film  in  twenty-two  years  in  Hollywood,  and  all  that  work 
had  gotten  him  a  reputation  as  a  superb  director  of  actresses. 

Bhowani,  however,  would  be  a  different  kind  of  test  for  him, 
and  for  me.  Based  on  a  bestselling  novel  by  English  writer  John 
Masters,  which  Metro  had  snapped  up  for  a  very  serious  two 
hundred  thousand  dollars,  Bhowani  was  set  in  India  in  1947, 
with  the  country  on  the  verge  of  independence  from  Britain. 
Riots  and  mass  demonstrations  were  commonplace,  and  George 
would  not  only  have  to  put  me  through  my  paces,  he  would  have 
to  orchestrate  explosive  crowd  scenes  with  thousands  of  extras 
milling  around. 



With  the  fight  for  India's  soul  between  the  peaceful  Congress 
party  of  Gandhi  and  the  violent  and  provocative  Communists  as 
background,  the  character  I  played,  Victoria  Jones,  returns  home 
to  the  railway  center  of  Bhowani  Junction,  a  subaltern  on  leave 
from  the  Women's  Auxiliary  Corps.  I  look  the  model  of  a  British 
maiden  in  my  uniform,  but  I'm  not.  I'm  an  Anglo-Indian,  a  half- 
breed  or  cheechee,  in  the  local  slang,  someone  who  feels  at  home 
in  neither  camp.  I  may  call  my  English  train-engineer  father  "pa- 
ter," but  no  one  treats  me  like  the  Queen  of  England.  As  a  result, 
says  Colonel  Rodney  Savage,  the  man  in  charge,  I  had  so  many 
chips  on  my  shoulder  you  only  had  to  cough  politely  to  send 
them  flying. 

Bhowani  Junction  is  really  the  story  of  how  my  love  for  three 
men  mirrored  India's  struggle  and  helped  me  to  find  myself.  First 
on  my  list  was  fellow  Anglo-Indian  Patrick  Taylor  (played  by  six- 
foot-four  Bill  Travers),  the  railways'  local  traffic  superintendent. 
However,  I  can't  get  used  to  Patrick's  anti-Indian  feeling,  and 
next  I  become  involved  with  Ranjit  Kasel,  a  Sikh  who  longs  for  a 
fully  independent  India.  I  was  always  amused  that  with  eight 
hundred  million  Indians  around,  MGM  went  and  employed  a 
goddamn  Englishman,  Francis  Matthews,  in  that  role.  But  he  did 
an  excellent  job,  and,  after  all,  they  hadn't  cast  an  Anglo-Indian 
in  my  part,  had  they? 

At  any  rate,  Ranjit  and  his  firebrand  mother  help  me  after  I'm 
forced  to  kill  a  British  officer  who  tries  to  rape  me,  and  I  consider 
marrying  him,  but  it  doesn't  feel  right.  Only  with  the  hard-nosed 
Colonel  Savage,  of  all  people,  a  man  I  once  called  "a  cruel 
bully,"  do  I  find  true  love.  But  even  though  he  offers  to  take  me 
back  to  England  with  him,  I  let  him  know  that  I  belong  to  India, 
"not  as  a  phony  Indian,  not  as  a  phony  white,  but  as  myself." 

Playing  Colonel  Savage  was  an  old  pal  of  mine,  Stewart 
Granger,  a  British-born  Hollywood  star  whose  real  name, 
changed  for  obvious  reasons,  was  Jimmy  Stewart.  Jimmy  was 
great  fun:  handsome,  talkative,  assertive,  and  a  nice  guy  under  it 
all.  He  was  married  to  Jean  Simmons  who,  by  an  odd  coinci- 
dence, was  simultaneously  making  Guys  and  Dolls  with  Frank. 
Jimmy  and  I  rendezvoused  in  Copenhagen  on  the  way  to  our 
location,  and  we  decided  to  see  what  that  city  had  to  offer  in 
terms  of  night  life.  We  got  on  like  great  pals,  and  sometime  dur- 
ing the  small  hours  of  the  morning  Jimmy  volunteered  that  he 



couldn't  possibly  be  unfaithful  to  Jean.  I  smiled,  patted  his  hand, 
and  said,  "Honey,  you've  been  reading  the  wrong  press  clips." 

If  the  world  were  a  logical  place,  the  location  Jimmy  and  I 
were  headed  toward  would  have  been  India.  But  the  Indians  were 
a  bit  resentful  of  the  pro-British  slant  of  the  original  novel  and 
were  insisting  that  they  had  to  see  the  script  and  approve  it. 
Metro  was  equally  startled  by  the  number  of  dollars  the  Indian 
tax  collectors  was  eager  to  levy,  including  one  tax  of  twelve  per- 
cent of  the  net  world  profit  on  the  picture.  So  when  neighboring 
Pakistan  suggested  Lahore  as  the  location  and  offered  to  waive 
all  taxes,  provide  crowds  as  well  as  the  use  of  the  Northwestern 
Railway  and  the  officers  and  men  of  the  13th  Battalion  Frontier 
Force  Rifles,  MGM  had  no  problem  accepting. 

Lahore  is  an  ancient  city,  so  old  that  no  one  really  knows 
when  it  first  came  into  existence.  And,  honey,  I  often  felt  that 
some  of  the  facilities  we  had  to  use  were  as  old  as  the  damn  city 
itself.  Not  only  was  the  place  hot,  often  up  to  one  hundred  and 
thirty  degrees,  not  to  mention  the  backbreaking  humidity,  but  the 
only  air-conditioning  available  was  in  the  form  of  large  and  not 
particularly  active  ceiling  fans. 

Outside,  it  was  teeming,  a  potpourri  of  flies,  smells,  carts, 
horses,  and  masses  of  humanity.  Dogs  howled  all  night  long,  I'm 
sure  from  hunger,  keeping  me  awake.  I  used  to  take  food  down 
to  them,  but  the  crew  would  warn  me,  "Jesus,  Ava,  be  careful. 
Rabies  is  rampant  in  this  part  of  the  world."  The  food  was  not 
trustworthy  either,  and  ended  up  giving  me  a  hellacious  case  of 
amoebic  dysentery,  an  illness  I  wouldn't  wish  on  one  of  those 
poor  dogs.  In  person  and  on  the  screen,  no  one  was  going  to 
mistake  this  place  for  Metro's  back  lot,  and  I  guess  that  was  the 
whole  point. 

Getting  the  material  needed  to  make  a  movie  into  Lahore 
turned  out  to  be  no  mean  feat.  Almost  every  form  of  transporta- 
tion known  to  man  was  used  to  get  the  hundreds  of  tons  of  gear 
into  the  city.  Among  the  stuff  that  had  to  be  brought  in  was  a 
twenty-ton  generator,  brought  from  London,  and  more  than  ten 
tripod  studio  cameras,  some  of  which  were  mounted  on  auto- 
mobiles, station  wagons,  and  trucks.  Someone  with  a  lot  of  time 
on  his  hands  estimated  that  two  hundred  and  fourteen  thousand 
man-hours  were  devoted  to  preparations  for  filming,  and  I  wasn't 
about  to  argue. 



During  the  four  months  Reenie  and  I  were  in  the  city,  our  hotel 
was  a  two-story  job  with  outdoor  verandas  running  around  each 
level.  We  shared  a  small  suite,  though  that  is  really  too  grand  a 
word  for  our  rough  square  of  rooms.  But  I  have  to  confess  that 
we  did  have  that  ultimate  luxury  in  that  climate,  a  working  re- 

I  had  the  most  exciting  evening  of  my  entire  stay  in  that  damn 
hotel  suite,  but  unfortunately  it  wasn't  a  romantic  encounter.  I 
had  just  finished  a  soothing  soak  in  the  bathtub  and  was  standing 
up,  reaching  for  a  towel,  when  I  felt  a  sudden  whoosh  over  my 
head.  People  talk  about  "a  bat  out  of  hell,"  but  this  damn  bat 
came  out  of  somewhere,  apparently  determined  to  nest  in  no- 
where but  my  hair. 

Oh,  God,  was  I  petrified!  Stark  naked,  I  ran  out  the  bathroom 
door  and  down  the  corridor  of  our  suite,  screaming  at  the  top  of 
my  lungs.  The  bat  must  have  been  some  goddamn  relative  of 
Count  Dracula  because  it  just  kept  after  me.  My  only  escape 
route  was  through  the  door  leading  to  the  outdoor  veranda.  Ree- 
nie, who'd  been  chasing  the  thing  with  a  broom,  saw  that  was 
where  I  was  headed,  and  she  dropped  the  broom  on  the  floor  and 
a  large  bath  towel  on  me  just  as  I  reached  the  veranda.  A  hotel 
servant  in  the  vicinity,  attracted  by  my  unladylike  screams, 
chased  the  damn  thing  away  with  a  loose  tennis  racket,  appar- 
ently the  local  weapon  of  choice  in  such  encounters.  And  a  good 
thing,  too.  I  might  have  run  as  far  as  the  Lahore  town  hall  in  my 
bare  feet  if  he  hadn't. 

In  circumstances  like  that,  even  the  simplest  shots  and  stunts 
became  difficult.  One  sequence,  which  had  me  falling  off  the 
back  of  Bill  Travers'  motorcycle  and  into  Jimmy  Granger's  arms, 
took  a  bruising  fourteen  takes  to  get  right.  And  just  being  on  the 
city's  streets  could  be  an  adventure  of  sorts.  I  remember  waiting 
for  my  cue  behind  a  dilapidated  building  one  bakingly  hot  day 
when  I  realized,  never  mind  how,  that  I  was  standing  literally  on 
the  edge  of  an  open  sewer.  The  sun  was  pouring  down,  the  heat 
was  unbearable,  the  flies  were  everywhere,  and  the  smell — honey, 
don't  even  ask  about  the  smell.  What  the  hell  am  I  doing  here, 
why  the  hell  am  I  trying  to  be  an  actress?  I  thought  to  myself. 
God  almighty,  I  felt  so  sick,  I  was  sure  if  they  didn't  call  for  me  in 
another  ten  seconds,  I'd  die.  Finally,  the  cue  came,  and  though  I 



managed  to  get  through  the  scene,  I  swear  my  face  must  have 
been  green.  And  definitely  not  with  envy. 

Still,  I  don't  want  to  give  the  impression  that  everything  in 
Lahore  was  dreadful  We  filmed  in  the  legendary  Shalimar  gar- 
dens, which  were  supposed  to  give  a  hint  of  the  beauties  of  para- 
dise and  the  world  to  come,  and  the  government  also  agreed  to 
reopen  an  exquisite  Sikh  temple  for  the  first  time  since  the  Mus- 
lims had  taken  over  Pakistan.  The  government  even  allowed 
some  one  hundred  Sikhs  to  cross  the  border  and  participate  in 
the  filmed  ceremony  in  which  Victoria  and  Ranjit  were  to  be  re- 
ceived into  the  Sikh  faith.  People  told  us  it  was  probably  the  first 
time  in  history  that  the  temple  had  been  opened  to  non-Sikhs.  To 
get  in,  everyone  had  to  be  shoeless,  which  was  definitely  not  a 
problem  as  far  as  I  was  concerned. 

Though  he'd  never  been  known  for  directing  crowd  scenes, 
you  wouldn't  have  known  it  from  watching  George  Cukor  inter- 
act with  the  extras.  George  was  a  tiger,  a  determined  perfec- 
tionist totally  possessed  by  a  single  thought — the  film.  He  was 
always  yelling  and  screaming  to  get  the  damn  thing  right.  He 
never  carried  the  whole  script  with  him,  just  the  half  dozen  pages 
or  whatever  for  that  day's  shooting,  and  he'd  hit  people  with 
them  if  he  got  mad  or  just  to  emphasize  his  point.  One  time  he 
got  so  angry  with  this  enormous,  unruly  mob  of  extras  that 
wasn't  doing  what  he'd  told  them  to  that  he  simply  waded  into 
the  throng  with  that  rolled-up  script,  a  little  guy  yelling  and 
screaming  his  lungs  out  and  hitting  them  as  if  he  were  leading  a 
battalion  of  armed  Sikhs  instead  of  being  all  by  his  lonesome. 
They  could  have  torn  him  to  pieces,  and  I  nervously  turned  to 
Jimmy  Granger  and  said,  "Jesus,  they'll  kill  him."  Jimmy  told  me 
not  to  worry.  "Ava,"  he  said,  "they  like  George."  And  he  was 

I  can  understand  why.  I  liked  George  enormously  myself.  He 
was  attentive  to  detail,  he  really  cared,  and  he  knew  how  to  pull 
the  kind  of  performance  he  wanted  out  of  me.  One  afternoon,  for 
instance,  he  was  having  trouble  getting  me  to  be  angry  enough 
for  one  of  the  many  quarrels  I  had  with  the  men  in  my  life.  Be- 
fore shooting  started,  I'd  told  George  about  the  particularly  irri- 
tating lunch  Pd  had  with  a  prying  journalist.  "Ava,"  he  said  to 
me  now,  "why  don't  you  get  mad  the  way  you  did  this  afternoon 
with  that  columnist?" 



"You  son  of  a  bitch/'  I  said  to  him.  *T11  never  tell  you  any- 
thing that  happens  to  me  off  the  set  again."  But  of  course,  that 
piece  of  direction  was  exactly  the  key  I  needed  to  successfully 
unlock  that  scene. 

Bad  as  conditions  were  in  Pakistan,  however,  it  turned  out  that 
my  worst  scene,  the  one  that  was  so  awful  and  horrific  that  it 
gave  me  nightmares,  was  shot  not  there  but  in  a  studio  back  in 
England.  In  it,  Lionel  Jeffries  plays  Lt.  Graham  McDaniel,  a  Brit- 
ish officer  who's  always  eyed  me  and,  in  Colonel  Savage's  words, 
"operated  as  if  his  duties  were  at  the  bottom  of  a  sewer."  And  on 
this  particular  night,  he  follows  me  home  and  attempts  to  rape 

I  can  still  remember  every  moment  of  that  scene.  McDaniel 
springs  at  me  and  knocks  me  down.  We  scramble  and  fight  in  the 
mud.  He  rips  off  my  uniform,  my  blouse,  he's  got  my  hair  pain- 
fully twisted  in  his  hands.  I  felt  I  was  losing  the  struggle,  being 
defeated  by  his  strength  and  determination.  Oh,  my  God,  Lionel 
was  serious  .  .  .  this  was  rape.  And  while  I  understood 
theoretically  that  you  can't  act  a  rape  scene  without  it  being  bru- 
tal, angry,  and  terrifying,  experiencing  it  was  something  else 
again.  I  felt  terrified,  hopelessly  vulnerable,  spitting  and  scratch- 
ing like  a  cat.  Defeated.  I  was  almost  out  of  my  mind  at  the  awful 
violence,  the  awful  reality. 

And,  of  course,  the  worst  thing  I  had  to  do  in  that  scene  was 
kill  my  attacker.  I  somehow  get  an  arm  free,  and  my  hand 
touches  a  piece  of  iron  railing  from  the  nearby  railway  track.  It's 
heavy  and  lethal,  and  I  raise  it  high  and  hit  McDaniel  as  hard  as  I 
can  on  the  head.  You  hear  this  crash.  And  I've  killed  a  man. 

I  left  that  scene  without  speaking  and  went  immediately  back 
to  my  trailer.  Trembling  and  shaking,  I  swallowed  an  enormous 
whiskey.  At  that  moment,  I  felt  sick  with  fright,  as  if  Fd  been 
literally  fighting  for  my  life.  I'd  known  Lionel  for  weeks  now;  he 
was  a  sweet  man  and  I  adored  him,  but  I  knew  that  if  I  didn't  see 
him  quickly,  that  scene  was  going  to  stick  in  my  mind  forever 
and  I'd  hate  his  guts. 

George  knocked  and  came  in  to  see  if  I  was  all  right. 
"George,"  I  said,  "for  God's  sake,  please  get  Lionel  over  here — 
now  I  Because  unless  I  see  him  and  give  him  a  big  hug,  I'll  never 
speak  to  him  as  long  as  I  live." 

Of  course  Lionel  hurried  over,  I  gave  him  my  hug,  and  things 


AVA    GARDNER    — — — — 

were  all  right  between  us.  No  film  scene  had  ever  affected  me  so 
deeply  before,  had  left  me  with  such  a  nightmare  sense  of  terror, 
and  no  scene  would  ever  do  so  again.  For  which  absence  I  am 
profoundly  grateful. 

I  don't  think  anybody  bothered  to  mention  that  rape  scene 
when  the  reviews  for  Bbowani  Junction  came  out.  Though  my 
performance  got  respectful  attention — Newsweek  called  me  "sur- 
prisingly effective"— most  of  the  critics  felt  the  film  didn't  quite 
hit  the  mark.  'The  piece  goes  off  in  so  many  directions,  and  with 
such  an  enormous  racket"  said  The  New  Yorker  rather  snidely, 
"that  one  longs  for  a  quiet  room  and  a  copy  of  'Kim.'" 

What  those  know-it-all  critics  didn't  know  was  that  George's 
film  had  been  seriously  damaged,  oversimplified,  and  oversenti- 
mentalized,  by  recutting  after  preview  audiences  didn't  respond 
to  Victoria's  life  and  loves  quite  the  way  the  studio  thought  they 
should.  For  instance,  a  nicely  flirtatious  scene  between  Victoria 
and  Colonel  Savage,  where  I  borrow  his  toothbrush  after  first 
dipping  it  in  Scotch,  was  cut,  and  the  whole  movie  was  rear- 
ranged and  an  extensive  voiceover  by  the  Colonel  added  on  to 
explain  over  and  over  again  that  the  sad  plight  of  the  Anglo- 
Indians  was  responsible  for  my  passionate  behavior.  As  if  any 
damn  excuses  were  necessary  in  the  first  place. 

Whatever  the  final  shape  of  the  film,  it  didn't  affect  my  feelings 
for  George  Cukor,  or  his  for  me.  In  fact  it  was  George  who  said 
the  nicest  thing  that's  ever  been  said  about  me.  "Ava,"  he  told  an 
interviewer,  "is  a  gentleman."  A  gentleman.  I  like  that. 



n  December  of  1955,  just  short  of  my  thirty- 
third  birthday,  I  did  something  I'd  been 
threatening  to  do  for  a  long  time,  something 
that  no  one  really  believed  Pd  ever  manage.  No,  it  wasn't  leaving 
the  picture  business,  but  it  was  close.  I  left  the  United  States  for 
good  and  all  and  settled  in  Spain. 

Why  did  I  go?  For  one  thing,  for  as  long  as  I  lived  there,  Fd 
never  liked  Hollywood.  It  wasn't  my  favorite  place,  to  put  it 
mildly;  I  found  it  provincial  and  superficial  by  turns.  I  just  didn't 
fit  in  with  the  way  things  were  done  in  the  movie  capital,  and  it 
was  becoming  more  and  more  impossible  to  have  any  privacy 
there.  I  couldn't  walk  my  dog,  go  to  an  airport  or  a  restaurant,  I 
couldn't  even  go  to  the  ladies'  room  without  somebody  around 
watching  me,  reporting  on  me,  spying  on  me.  I  felt  imprisoned  by 
the  lifestyle  of  a  movie  star  and  I  just  couldn't  live  with  that 

And  if  I  hadn't  cared  for  Hollywood  in  its  heyday,  it  certainly 
had  less  attractions  for  me  now  that  things  seemed  to  be  falling 
apart.  The  film  business  was  becoming  increasingly  fragmented: 
more  productions  were  basing  in  Europe  for  tax  reasons,  my  old 
buddy  Howard  Hughes  had  actually  gone  and  sold  RKO,  and 
television,  growing  like  Topsy,  was  robbing  the  movies  of  much 
of  its  audience. 

And  then  there  was  Spain.  I  don't  know  whether  it  was  the 
weather,  the  people,  or  the  music,  but  I'd  fallen  head  over  heels 
in  love  with  the  place  from  the  first  moment  I'd  arrived  years 



before.  It  was  so  unspoiled  in  those  days,  so  dramatic,  so  his- 
toric— and  so  goddamn  cheap  to  live  in  that  it  was  almost  unbe- 
lievable. Combined  with  the  fact  that  living  abroad  exempted  me 
from  paying  domestic  income  tax,  the  whole  package  definitely 
appealed  to  the  frugal  side  of  my  nature. 

But  there  was  more  than  dollars  and  sense  involved  in  my  deci- 
sion. I  fell  in  love  with  classic  Castilian — when  you  hear  it  spo- 
ken and  can  understand  it,  it's  so  pure  and  musical  that  it's  a 
delight  to  the  senses.  And  I  felt  emotionally  close  to  Spain— who 
can  really  say  why? — and  the  Spanish  people  responded  in  kind, 
accepting  me  without  question.  Which  couldn't  have  been  easy 
for  them.  After  all,  I  represented  everything  they  disapproved  of. 
I  was  a  woman,  living  alone,  divorced,  a  non-Catholic,  and  an 

The  Spanish  really  did  more  than  accept  me;  they  seemed  to  be 
positively  delighted  that  I  had  chosen  to  make  my  life  among 
them.  1  had  barely  arrived  when  I  was  offered  a  fortune  to  do  a 
soap  commercial.  A  fortune.  I  said,  "Not  unless  you  give  me  a 
Rolls-Royce,  too."  Finally  they  came  back.  "Okay,"  they  said. 
"Well  give  you  a  Rolls-Royce  as  well."  Still,  I  said  no.  Wasn't 
that  crazy? 

I  bought  a  house  in  La  Moraleja,  a  suburb  just  minutes  from 
the  center  of  Madrid.  It  was  a  low,  sprawling,  ranch-style  red- 
brick building,  nicknamed  La  Bruja,  the  witch,  because  just  such 
a  creature,  complete  with  broomstick,  was  doing  duty  as  the 
weathervane.  Set  on  two  acres  of  green  lawn  with  magnificent 
weeping  willows  and  a  fine  view  of  the  distant  hills,  it  was  built 
for  comfort,  not  for  show,  which  was  fine  with  me.  It  was  also 
unfurnished,  and  Reenie  and  I  rushed  around  Madrid  buying  ev- 
erything in  sight,  especially  furniture.  The  only  necessities  I 
couldn't  seem  to  get — Hershey  bars,  Kleenex,  and  Jack  Daniel's 
whiskey — were  replenished  by  visiting  friends.  I  filled  La  Bruja 
with  books  and  records  and,  for  the  first  time  since  I'd  left  North 
Carolina,  I  felt  I  was  home. 

I  took  Spanish  lessons  and  worked  very  hard  at  them  because  I 
was  determined  to  fit  in.  To  hell  with  being  a  tourist;  I  wanted  to 
experience  the  Spanish  lifestyle.  My  teacher  was  an  elderly  gen- 
tleman, tall  and  graying  with  a  commanding  manner.  He  would 
walk  in  the  door  and  say  with  a  wave  of  his  hand,  "No  English 
today!  Solamente  espanol." 



I  would  nod  and  say,  "Si."  And  then,  being  polite  and  hospita- 
ble, I  would  ask  in  my  best  Spanish,  "^Quieres  una  copita?" 
"Would  you  like  a  drink?"  and  he  would  beam  and  say,  "SI,  si, 
senorita.  Una  martini,  por  favor."  Before  we  knew  it,  we'd 
downed  a  pitcher  of  Reenie's  knockout  concoctions  and  could 
have  been  speaking  Hindustani  for  all  that  it  mattered. 

Despite  diversions  like  Mr.  Martini,  my  Spanish  did  improve. 
It  turned  out  that  my  accent  was  very  good — we  worked  hard  on 
it,  so  it  damn  well  better  have  been — and  I  had  a  good  ear  for 
colloquial  phrases.  But  even  though  I  ended  up  reading  and  writ- 
ing very  well,  my  spoken  Spanish  was  never  quite  what  it  should 
have  been  because  my  innate  shyness  got  in  the  way. 

When  it  came  to  going  out  and  seeing  the  country,  however,  I 
certainly  wasn't  about  to  let  any  shyness  stop  me.  Reenie  and  I 
often  drove  off  on  trips  all  across  Spain,  for  instance  visiting  the 
Gypsies  in  Granada  and  having  them  plop  their  babies  on  my  lap 
to  hold  during  flamenco  dances.  Another  time  we  stopped  for 
coffee  at  a  tiny  roadside  cafe  and  when  we  asked  for  milk,  the 
old  Spaniard  who  ran  the  place  immediately  put  his  hands  on  his 
nanny  goat.  Thanks,  we  said,  but  no  thanks. 

One  thing  Spain  didn't  do  for  me  was  improve  my  driving, 
which,  you  may  remember,  was  not  exactly  a  model  of  safety.  It 
had  even  caused  daredevil  Howard  Hughes  to  say  to  me,  with 
typical  Howard  logic,  "Ava,  you  drive  too  fast.  If  I  were  you  Fd 
always  drive  in  the  middle  of  the  road.  That  way,  if  anything 
happens,  you've  got  room  on  both  sides."  And  now  I  was  in  a 
country  that  had  some  very  original  thoughts  indeed  about 
speeding.  The  police  once  pulled  a  friend  of  mine  over  and  when 
she  protested,  "But  there  aren't  any  speed  limits  in  this  country," 
they  calmly  replied,  "That  doesn't  matter.  You  were  going  faster 
than  anybody  else,  so  we're  going  to  give  you  a  ticket." 

The  worst  time  I  ever  had  with  a  car  was  on  a  tranquil  road 
outside  Madrid  with  very  little  traffic  in  either  direction.  I  was  on 
my  way  to  the  airport  in  a  big,  powerful  Mercedes,  and  even 
though  I  was  only  meeting  an  MGM  producer,  I  was  late  and  I 
just  hate  being  late.  The  end  result  was  that  I  hit  this  sharp  curve 
in  the  road  way  too  fast,  soared  up  the  side  of  a  grassy  embank- 
ment, and  completely  lost  control.  The  car  did  two  full  rolls  and 
another  half  one  for  good  measure  and  finally  came  to  rest  with 



its  wheels  in  the  air  and  me  sitting  upside  down  in  the  driver's 
seat,  wondering  what  the  hell  had  happened. 

The  windshield  and  side  windows  were  smashed,  there  was 
glass  everywhere,  but  the  Mercedes'  solid  steel  framework  hadn't 
buckled  and  that's  what  saved  my  life.  Spanish  workers  harvest- 
ing in  nearby  fields  came  to  my  rescue,  hauling  me  out  of  the  car 
and  brushing  the  glass  splinters  off  my  clothes.  And  who  should 
come  by  to  rescue  me  but  Ben  Cole,  Lana  Turner's  manager,  who 
was  helping  me  settle  into  Spain  and  had  just  made  a  great  deal 
to  sell  the  Mercedes  to  a  gentleman  in  Switzerland. 

"Well,"  I  said,  "you  better  call  back  and  tell  him  you  can  let 
him  have  it  a  bit  cheaper  because  it's  not  in  the  mint  condition  he 

I  didn't  seem  to  have  any  serious  injuries,  at  least  none  that  a 
couple  of  decent-sized  drinks  wouldn't  fix,  but  within  a  few  days 
I  realized  that  when  the  steering  wheel  had  hit  my  thigh  with  a 
tremendous  bang,  it  had  raised  a  huge  bruise  that  seemed  to  be 
turning  into  a  sort  of  a  dent. 

So  later,  when  I  was  in  London  on  some  business,  I  reported 
the  bruise  to  my  doctor.  He  examined  it,  made  a  noncommittal 
"Hmm,"  and  suggested  I  get  in  touch  with  Sir  Archibald  Mcln- 
doe,  a  well-known  British  plastic  surgeon  who  had  spent  most  of 
the  war  years  attending  to  the  broken  bones  and  terrible  burns 
suffered  by  Royal  Air  Force  fliers. 

Archie,  as  I  soon  began  to  call  him,  turned  out  to  be  a  com- 
fortably built  man  with  a  round  face,  wise  old  eyes,  and  a  kindly 
smile.  He  was  a  New  Zealander,  but  without  any  trace  of  the 
accent,  and  within  minutes  we  were  friends. 

"Ava,"  he  said,  "take  a  bucket  and  drop  in  a  couple  of  tins  of 
tomatoes.  Leave  the  tomatoes  in  the  tins,  dear,  because  it's  the 
weight  you  need.  Then  put  your  foot  through  the  handle  and  just 
lift  the  bucket  and  return  it  to  the  ground.  Lift  and  return,  lift 
and  return,  over  and  over  again  as  many  times  as  you  can.  That 
muscle  has  been  very  badly  bruised  and  indented,  and  that  exer- 
cise will  give  it  strength  and  help  it  to  rebuild." 

Archie  was  dead  right.  For  a  Harley  Street  specialist,  I  thought 
he  made  a  lot  of  horse  sense,  and  though  I  hoped  I'd  never  need 
him  again,  I  didn't  forget  his  kindness. 

One  of  the  ironic  things  about  my  living  in  Spain  was  that  now 
that  I  was  established  in  Luis  Miguel's  country,  my  relationship 



with  him  had  come  to  an  end.  We  had  started  to  break  up  slowly 
and  regretfully  after  he'd  let  Howard  Hughes's  people  talk  him 
onto  that  plane  in  Lake  Tahoe.  We  said  it  didn't  make  any  dif- 
ference between  us,  but  it  did.  And  the  months  I  was  in  Pakistan 
making  Bhowani  Junction  were  not  the  best  thing  for  a  shaky 

Also,  Luis  Miguel  was  anxious  to  settle  down,  get  married, 
and  raise  a  family,  and  I  knew  that  I  was  not  ready  for  that  sort 
of  domesticity.  And  since  we  were  great  friends  as  well  as  lovers, 
and  since  I'd  never  been  as  jealous  of  him  as  I  was  of  Frank,  I 
was  genuinely  happy  for  Luis  Miguel  when  he  told  me  that  he 
was  going  to  marry  the  Italian  actress  Lucia  Bose. 

The  funny  thing  was,  the  next  man  in  my  life  turned  out  to  be 
an  old  flame  of  Lucia  Bose's,  the  Italian  actor  Walter  Chiari. 
Though  not  terribly  well  known  outside  his  homeland,  Walter 
had  some  forty  films  to  his  credit  and  was  considered  a  kind  of 
Italian  Danny  Kaye.  I'd  first  met  him  in  Rome  during  the  making 
of  Barefoot  Contessa.  He  had  been  flirting  with  me  almost  from 
the  first  day  we  met,  but  you  expect  that  from  Italian  males:  if 
they're  not  chasing  someone,  their  lives  aren't  worth  living. 

What  can  I  say  about  Walter  Chiari?  Walter  was  nice,  and 
everyone  knows  what  a  kiss  of  death  that  can  sometimes  be.  Wal- 
ter was  amusing,  good-looking,  even-tempered,  highly  intelligent, 
and  a  delightful  companion.  He  followed  me  all  over  Europe,  all 
over  the  world  in  fact.  Our  association  lasted  a  long  time  and  we 
even  lived  together  on  many  occasions.  And,  yes,  Walter  often 
asked  me  to  marry  him,  but  I  couldn't  and  I  didn't.  The  distance 
that  separates  liking  from  love  is  as  wide  as  the  Pacific  as  far  as 
I'm  concerned.  And  that  was  always  the  bottom  line  between  me 
and  Walter  Chiari. 

There  was  an  odd  footnote  to  our  relationship,  however.  Wal- 
ter and  I  (along  with  Jimmy  Granger  and  David  Niven)  actually 
made  a  film  together.  It  was  my  next  project  for  MGM,  The  Lit- 
tle Hut,  and  the  less  said  about  that  fiasco  the  better.  The  feeble 
plot  had  the  four  of  us  stranded  on  a  desert  island,  thinking 
about  sex  but  not,  the  production  code  being  what  it  was,  doing 
very  much  about  it.  I  hated  it,  every  minute  of  it,  but  what  could 
I  do?  If  I  took  another  suspension  they'd  keep  me  at  Metro  for 
the  rest  of  my  life.  I  would  have  played  Little  Eva  if  they'd 
wanted,  anything  to  get  through  my  contract  fast. 



A  much  more  lasting  male  relationship,  in  fact  one  of  the  most 
gratifying  of  my  life,  also  began  In  Spain.  Through  Betty  Sicre,  a 
good  chum,  I'd  met  Robert  Graves  at  a  party  In  Madrid.  At  first, 
1  have  to  admit,  I  wasn't  at  all  clear  about  who  he  was  and  I 
mistook  him  for  some  sort  of  scientist.  How  was  I  to  know  that 
he  was  a  writer  and  Greek  scholar  of  enviable  eminence,  some- 
one the  London  Times  would  call,  "the  greatest  love  poet  in  En- 
since  John  Donne"? 

Robert  was  big  and  broad,  six  foot  two  with  a  thick  shock  of 
white  hair.  His  face  seemed  to  have  been  carved  out  of  solid 
rock,  but  It  was  softened  by  his  warmth  and  an  Impish,  self- 
mocking  of  humor.  He  loved  women,  loved  to  be  in  their 
presence,  loved  the  sound  of  their  laughter  and  their  talk.  And  I 
have  to  admit  that  1  truly  loved  him  as  well,  even  though  he  was 
close  to  his  middle  sixties  when  we  met  and  there  was  never  even 
the  slightest  suggestion  that  we  should  carry  things  further  into  a 
physical  relationship.  The  best  way  I  can  describe  the  situation  is 
that  there  was  sort  of  a  love-conspiracy  between  us3  and  that 
being  together  with  him  and  his  wonderful  wife  Beryl  and  the 
kids  in  their  house  high  on  a  hillside  on  Majorca  gave  me  a  kind 
of  pleasure  and  satisfaction  nothing  else  In  my  life  could  ap- 

When  I  first  went  to  visit  Robert  on  Majorca,  I  was  determined 
to  learn  all  I  could  about  the  work  he  did.  "You  know,  Robert,"  I 
said,  "I  really  don't  understand  poetry/' 

And  he  said,  to  the  point  as  always,  "My  darling,  you're  not 
supposed  to  understand  It,  you're  supposed  to  enjoy  It.55  Poems 
are  like  people,  he  told  me;  there  aren't  that  many  authentic  ones 

Later,  on  my  way  to  bed,  I  turned  up  a  copy  of  Robert's 
Collected  Poems  and  I  asked  him  which  one  I  ought  to  read  first. 
He  picked  one  that  he  said  I  might  perhaps  agree  to  take  person- 
ally, though  It  had  been  written  long  before  we  met  I  still  re- 
member some  of  the  lines: 

She  speaks  always  in  her  own  voice 
Even  to  strangers.  .  .  . 
She  Is  wild  and  Innocent,  pledged  to  love 
Through  all  disaster.  .  .  . 

There  was  a  smile  on  his  face  the  next  morning. 


"I  loved  It/?  !  said. 

"It's  you  to  the  life/5  he  said. 

Through  all  the  years  we  knew  each  other5  Robert  wrote  sev- 
eral poems  for  mes  something  that  makes  me  very  proud.  The 
first  ever,  which  came  with  a  little  note  reading  £To  Ava  from 
with  love— 1964"  was  "Not  to  Sleep/5 

Not  to  sleep  all  the  night  long,  for  pure  joy,. 

Counting  no  sheep  and  careless  of  chimes^ 

Welcoming  the  dawn  confabulation 

Of  birds-j  her  children,,  who  discuss  why 

Fanciful  details  of  the  promised  coming — 

Will  she  be  wearing  red?  or  russet,  or  blue 

Or  pure  white?  whatever  she  wears5  glorious. 

Not  to  sleep  all  Iong5  for  pure  joy> 

This  is  given  to  few  but  at  last  to  me5 

So  that  when  I  laugh  or  stretch  or  leap  from  bed 

I  shall  glide  downstairs^  my  feet  brushing  the  carpet 

In  courtesy  to  civilized  progression. 

Though  did  1  wish,  I  could  soar  through  the  open  window 

And  perch  on  a  branch  above5  acceptable  ally 

Of  the  blrds5  still  alert,  grumbling  gently  together. 

What  can  you  say  about  a  man  who  would  send  something 
like  that?  Is  It  any  wonder  that  I  felt  the  way  I  did  about  him? 



hough  Td  been  involved  in  a  couple  of 
previous  film  versions  of  Papa  Heming- 
way's works  that  had  turned  out  fine,  I 
never  thought  that  filming  The  Sun  Also  Rises  was  the  best  of 
ideas.  I  didn't  think  it  could  be  done  without  spoiling  it,  and  Fm 
afraid  I  turned  out  to  be  right. 

Originally  published  in  1926,  with  its  title  taken  from  a  partic- 
ularly down-in-the-mouth  section  of  Ecclesiastes,  Sun  was  notori- 
ous because  its  main  character,  Jake  Barnes,  was  sexually 
impotent  owing  to  a  wound  suffered  in  World  War  L  Even  Papa's 
own  mother  had  called  it  "one  of  the  filthiest  books  of  the  year." 
Papa  had  given  it  to  his  first  wife,  Hadley,  as  part  of  her  divorce 
settlement,  and  she'd  sold  it  practically  right  then  and  there  for 
ten  thousand  dollars.  By  the  time  Darryl  F.  Zanuck  decided  he 
wanted  to  turn  it  into  a  movie  nearly  three  decades  later,  those 
same  rights  cost  him  a  hundred  and  twenty-five  thousand,  none 
of  which  came  home  to  Papa. 

Initially,  or  so  Fve  been  told,  Zanuck  wanted  Jennifer  Jones 
for  the  leading  part  of  Lady  Brett  Ashley,  but  she  turned  it 
down  and  Papa  personally  informed  Zanuck  he  thought  I  would 
be  swell.  When  Henry  King,  who'd  directed  me  in  Snows  of 
Kilimanjaro.,  sent  me  the  treatment,  I  felt  an  immediate  kinship 
with  Lady  Brett,  who  Papa  wrote  was  "as  charming  when  she  is 
drunk  as  when  she  is  sober."  I  always  felt  close  to  Papa's 
The  rest  of  the  cast  took  a  while  to  assemble  and  was  a  pretty 



mixed  lot.  Tyrone  Power  played  Jake,  Mel  Ferrer  his  pal  Robert 
Cohn,  Errol  Flynn  was  my  besotted  fiance  Mike  Campbell, 
Juliette  Greco  (who  promptly  caught  Zanuck's  eye)  played  a 
French  lady  of  the  night,  and  Robert  Evans,  a  former  clothing 
manufacturer  from  New  York  who  later  became  head  of  produc- 
tion at  Paramount,  played  Pedro  Romero,  the  matador  who 
loved  me. 

More  of  a  problem  than  the  cast  was  the  first  draft  of 
the  script.  When  I  read  it,  I  nearly  had  a  fit.  I  took  Papa 
the  script  and  told  him  for  his  own  pride  he  had  to  change 
things.  Now,  when  Papa  got  mad  he  would  stand  on  something 
and  make  speeches.  Perched  on  a  chair,  he  started  to  scream, 
"They  haven't  even  got  the  right  fucking  kind  of  planes  in  it!" 
Finally,  he  calmed  down  and  Peter  Viertel,  a  young  man  he 
liked  very  much,  was  brought  in  and  did  another,  much  supe- 
rior draft. 

Still,  the  movie  was  hardly  the  damn  book.  For  one  thing,  it 
focused  more  on  what  the  publicity  called  "Hemingway's  color- 
ful world,"  the  mad  whirl  of  fiestas,  bulls,  bistros,  and  parades. 
And  for  another,  it  seemed  obsessed,  at  least  as  far  as  that  pub- 
licity was  concerned,  with  the  supposedly  racy  nature  of  the  pro- 
ceedings. "Again,"  the  ads  blared,  "Twentieth  Century-Fox 
breaks  tradition,  as  it  brings  you  Hemingway's  boldest  love  story 
that  shocked  the  world.  So  daring — so  delicate — it  could  not  be 
filmed  until  now."  Or  how  about,  "Only  Hemingway,  master  of 
unspoken  secrets,  could  successfully  tackle  this  daring  theme, .  .  . 
could  weave  this  shattering  novel  of  dissipation  and  passion  in 
pleasure-mad  Europe."  Right. 

Actually,  it  was  always  the  romantic  aspects  of  the  story  that 
appealed  to  me.  Lady  Brett  was  an  American  who'd  married  a 
British  lord  and  had  been  widowed  by  the  First  World  War.  She'd 
met  Jake  Barnes  and  fallen  madly  in  love  with  him,  but  because 
of  his  wound  felt  there  was  no  hope  for  them.  So  both  she  and 
Jake  joined  what  used  to  be  called  the  Lost  Generation,  the  group 
of  bohemian  pleasure  seekers  who  sought  to  flee  their  pain 
through  drinking  and  general  dissipation  across  the  face  of  Eu- 

In  the  course  of  the  film,  almost  every  man  she  meets  falls 
madly  for  Lady  Brett:  the  Scot  Mike  Campbell,  the  American 
Robert  Cohn,  the  Spanish  bullfighter  Pedro  Romero,  and  of 



course  poor  Jake.  This  causes  all  sorts  of  dreadful  complications, 
especially  since  I  stay  with  no  one  and  am  happy  with  no  one. 
Robert  Cohn  finally  can't  take  any  more  and  beats  up  everyone 
in  sight,  which  appears  to  knock  a  bit  of  sense  into  me  as  well. 
Though  Papa  hadn't  wanted  a  happy  ending  for  these  characters, 
the  whole  point  of  the  thing  being  that  they  couldn't  find  con- 
tentment, Hollywood  wasn't  satisfied  with  that.  So  the  film  ends 
with  me  and  Jake  sharing  a  cab.  I  say,  "Oh,  darling,  there  must 
be  an  answer  for  us  somewhere,"  and  the  poor  man  agrees,  "Fm 
sure  there  is." 

Though  the  movie  starts  in  Paris,  most  of  it  is  in  fact  set  in  the 
Spanish  city  of  Pamplona,  site  of  the  world-famous  running 
of  the  bulls  at  the  San  Fermin  fiesta.  Henry  King  had  shot  all 
kinds  of  footage  at  the  real  fiesta,  and  though  that  was  used 
in  the  final  film,  by  the  time  the  cast  was  assembled,  Pamplona 
was  covered  with  four  feet  of  snow.  So  we  all  went  instead  to 
Morelia,  Mexico,  where  Henry  and  Tyrone  Power  had  filmed 
Captain  from  Castile  in  1946,  to  fill  in  the  blanks.  Not  only  was 
the  city  old  enough  to  look  Spanish,  complete  with  a  statue  of  the 
great  Spanish  writer  Cervantes,  but  the  city  fathers  agreed  to 
repaint  the  interior  of  their  bullring  so  it  matched  Pamplona's 

Of  all  the  actors  who  worked  with  me  on  that  film,  I  got  along 
best  with  Errol  Flynn.  I  adored  him,  but  although  I  dated  him  a 
couple  of  times  when  I  first  arrived  in  Hollywood,  we  were  never 
physically  involved.  Errol  was  probably  the  most  beautiful  man  I 
ever  saw,  his  perfect  body  equally  at  home  in  a  swimsuit  or 
astride  a  horse.  And  he  was  fun,  gallant,  and  well  mannered  with 
a  great  sense  of  humor.  When  he  walked  into  a  room,  it  was  as  if 
a  light  had  been  turned  on.  As  he  grew  older,  he  drank  too  much 
and  was  chased  around  by  scandal  and  gossip.  But  Errol  Flynn 
always  had  style,  honey.  Real  style. 

Despite  that  silly  ad  campaign,  Sun  might  have  gotten  better 
reviews  than  it  deserved  when  it  came  out.  Time  magazine,  which 
had  practically  laughed  at  me  in  Bboiuani  Junction,  said  this  was 
"the  most  realistic  performance"  of  my  entire  career.  Papa,  pre- 
dictably, was  not  pleased.  He  called  it  "Darryl  Zanuck's  splashy 
Cook's  Tour  of  the  lost  generation,"  and  added  that  as  far  as  he 
was  concerned  it  was  "all  pretty  disappointing,  and  that's  being 
gracious.  You're  meant  to  be  in  Spain  and  all  you  see  walking 
around  are  Mexicans.  Pretty  silly." 



No  one  In  Hollywood  was  too  concerned  about  Papa's  com- 
plaints, though.  As  David  O.  Selznick  once  told  John  Huston,  "If 
a  character  goes  from  Cafe  A  to  Cafe  B,  instead  of  Cafe  B  to  Cafe 
A,  or  if  a  boat  heads  north  instead  of  south,  Hemingway  is  up- 
set." This  time,  though,  I  think  his  irritation  was  justified.  What 
happened  to  him  shouldn't  happen  to  a  dog. 



hough  I  damn  well  knew  I'd  been  nothing 
but  lucky  when  the  health  and  beauty 
genes  had  been  passed  around,  I'd  never 
bothered  much  about  my  looks.  They  didn't  seem  to  have  that 
much  connection  with  who  I  thought  I  was,  with  what  I  felt  was 
important.  Then  something  happened,  something  terrible,  that 
drove  home  the  grim  truth  that  without  my  face,  the  future  was 
going  to  be  pretty  bleak. 

Not  long  after  I'd  arrived  in  Spain,  Papa  Hemingway  had  in- 
troduced me  to  a  man  named  Angelo  Peralta,  who  owned  a  beau- 
tiful ranch  in  Andalusia  near  Seville  where  he  bred  fighting  bulls. 
And  not  just  any  bulls,  but  the  especially  fast  and  dangerous 
Miura  bulls  that  have  killed  more  matadors  than  any  other 
breed.  When  the  great  Manolete  died,  it  was  because  of  the  horns 
of  a  Miura  bull. 

After  nearly  two  years  in  Spain,  I'd  become  something  of  an 
aficionada  of  bullfighting,  so  when,  in  October  of  1957,  Angelo 
Peralta  invited  me  and  any  friends  I  chose  to  visit  him  on  his 
ranch  and  watch  the  testing  of  young  bulls,  I  was  quite  happy  to 
accept.  Both  Bappie  and  Walter  Chiari  were  staying  with  me  at 
La  Bruja  at  that  time,  so  we  all  went  down  together. 

The  ring  used  for  this  testing  was  nothing  near  the  size  of  the 
large  bullrings  found  in  all  the  major  cities.  It  was  a  smallish 
circular  arena  built  of  wood,  with  openings  at  various  places  to 
admit  the  fast,  specially  trained  horses  and  expert  riders  used  in 
the  procedure.  The  young  bulls,  intent  on  killing  anything  that 



moves,  are  let  in  one  at  a  time.  They  charge  the  horse,  and  the 
rider  attempts  to  simultaneously  keep  his  animal  out  of  harm's 
way  and  plant  barbed  darts  called  banderillas  in  the  bull's  back. 
A  few  rushes  and  crashes,  with  horns  smashing  into  the  wooden 
barriers,  and  the  experts  have  decided  on  the  bravery  of  this  par- 
ticular youngster  and  another  one  is  let  in. 

Bappie,  Walter,  and  I  joined  the  large  crowd  that  had  gathered 
around  the  ring  to  watch  the  spectacle.  We  were  enjoying  the 
action  and  the  sunshine  and  not  being  shy  about  drinking  mind- 
bending  concoctions  called  solasombras,  a  particularly  lethal 
combination  of  absinthe  and  Spanish  cognac.  Though  in  those 
days  I  was  admittedly  caught  up  in  the  passion  and  pagentry  of 
the  bullfighting  ritual,  desensitizing  myself  with  solasombras  was 
really  the  only  way  I  could  face  seeing  those  beautiful  animals 
slaughtered  in  a  bullring. 

Suddenly  I  began  to  hear  murmurs  all  around  me,  a  sort  of 
increasing  chorus.  "What  about  it,  Ava?  Get  up  on  a  horse  and 
try  your  luck.  It's  great  fun.  Give  it  a  try,  Ava." 

Worse  than  that,  I  began  listening  to  them.  Well,  why  not?  I 
thought.  I'll  just  hang  onto  the  horse;  it  knows  what  to  do.  Just 
lean  down  and  plant  the  dart  in  the  bull's  back. 

Which  was  an  awful  mistake.  First  of  all,  in  films  or  out  of 
films,  I'd  never  ridden  a  horse  in  my  life.  The  closest  I'd  come 
was  perching  on  the  back  of  a  few  tired  old  mules  as  a  little  girl 
in  North  Carolina.  Sure  I  was  a  good  athlete,  but  that  had  noth- 
ing in  common  with  riding  a  spirited  horse  at  dizzying  speed  and 
facing  a  charging  young  bull  determined  to  kill  you  both. 

Someone  in  authority  should  have  stepped  in  and  stopped  me. 
You  don't  fool  with  bulls  of  that  breed  and  ferocity.  If  Luis  Mi- 
guel had  been  there,  he  would  have  stopped  me  at  once.  But  Wal- 
ter Chiari  just  stood  there  smiling.  And  Bappie  for  some  reason 
had  left  the  arena. 

I  can't  remember  who  helped  me  into  the  saddle.  Somebody 
said  comfortingly,  "Now  you  just  hang  onto  the  reins  with  your 
left  hand.  Hold  die  banderillas  in  your  right.  The  horse  knows 
his  stuff  and  as  the  bull  goes  past  just  stick  them  in  his  back. 
Anywhere  will  do."  Thanks  a  lot. 

Whoosh  ...  I  was  off,  hurtling  around  the  ring  as  the  horse 
went  into  overdrive.  I  made  three  flying  circuits  before  the  young 
bull  was  let  in  and,  oh,  boy,  did  the  action  ever  start  then.  The 


A  VA    CARD  Nr  £  R 

bull  flew  at  the  horse  but  just  missed,  crashing  Into  the  circular 
barrier  with  a  bang.  The  next  few  seconds  are  still  somewhat 
confusing  to  me,  but  as  best  as  I  can  figure,  just  as  I  leaned  down 
to  stick  In  my  banderilla,  the  horse  reared  high  to  avoid  being 
disemboweled  by  the  next  charge. 

I  went  overboard,  plunging  Into  a  welter  of  horses'  hooves,  but 
I  don't  think  either  the  horse  or  the  bull  touched  me.  My  cheek 
smashed  Into  the  earth.  I  felt  the  Impact,,  but  no  pain,  no  fear,  no 
panic.  I  guess  the  solasombras  had  done  their  job  and  left  me 
properly  stupefied  I  remember  being  picked  up  and  carried  from 
the  ring.  I  was  not  hysterical  or  even  frightened. 

To  this  day,  Pm  pretty  certain  it  was  the  force  with  which  I 
struck  the  ground  that  created  the  large,  discolored  lump  up 
on  my  cheek5  a  lump  that  the  photographs  show  had  started  to 
form  even  as  I  was  being  lifted  off  the  ground. 

Oh,  yes,  there  was  a  photographer  with  a  high-speed  camera 
at  a  good  angle  In  the  crowd  so  he  could  catch  everything 
happened.  It  wasn't  until  later  that  1  discovered  that  little 
fact,  or  that  Paris  Match,  the  French  version  of  Life  magazine, 
paid  seventy-five  thousand  dollars  for  that  unique  set  of  prints. 
The  whole  thing  had  been  plainly  stage-managed  with  the  idea  of 
getting  me  a  little  woozy,  putting  me  aboard  a  very  fast  and  high- 
spirited  horse  and  into  the  ring  with  a  very  dangerous  animal. 
That's  not  a  gag,  It's  a  crime.  I  can  only  hope  to  God  that  there 
was  nothing  prearranged  about  the  fall  as  well. 

But  on  that  day,  life  had  to  go  on.  A  great  party  and  barbecue 
had  been  prepared,  an  event  that  had  been  announced  through 
the  Andaluslan  grapevine.  Gypsies  had  come  from  miles  around, 
providing  their  wonderful  flamenco  singing  and  dancing.  Fueled 
by  an  endless  supply  of  wine,  I  joined  in  and  danced  until  the  sun 
rose  behind  the  mountains. 

I  do  remember  looking  into  the  mirror  on  my  first  visit  to  the 
bathroom  and  seeing  this  lump,  which  seemed  to  be  the  size  of 
my  fist,  sticking  out  of  my  cheekbone.  I  thought  it  looked  pretty 
horrible  for  a  woman  who  depended  on  her  face  for  a  living,  but 
I  didn't  panic.  1  simply  went  back  to  the  dance. 

The  next  day,  in  Seville,  the  horror  began  to  focus.  I  ran  Into 
two  American  agents  who  lived  in  Rome*  We  had  lunch  together 
and  they  said,  "For  God's  sake,  Ava,  you've  got  to  go  back  to  the 
States  or  England  right  away  and  get  that  fixed."  When  I  took 


A  VA:    M  V   STORY 

another  look  at  myself  in  the  mirror  and  realized  that  the  lump 
had  not  gone  down,  1  knew  they  were  right.  1  needed  Archie 

So  I  went  to  see  Archie  at  his  East  Grinstead  hospital  for  the 
Royal  Air  Force.  The  war  was  over,  but  the  RAF  was  still  lying 
and  there  were  always  horrible  accidents.  I  knew  that  in  com- 
parison to  what  was  going  on  with  those  badly  burned  pilots,  my 
little  injury  was  of  almost  no  consequence*  But  Archie  was  a 
of  enormous  compassion  and  understanding,  and  he  enough 
to  spare  for  me. 

He  told  me  that  my  lump  was  a  hematoma,  a  blood  clot.  He 
said  that  a  new  method  of  treatment  by  injection  had  just  come 
out,  but  he  wouldn't  dare  to  use  it  on  me  because  it  was  so 
that  no  one  knew  what  the  complications  might  be?  including  the 
possibility  of  another  hematoma  on  top  of  the  old  one,  which 
would  certainly  mean  permanent  disfigurement. 

I  sat  there  and  looked  at  the  man  who  was  probably  the  great- 
est plastic  surgeon  in  the  world,  let  out  a  breath,  and  waited  for 
his  advice. 

"It  will  take  time,"  he  said,  "but  It  will  go  away  of  its  own 
accord.  You'll  need  heat  treatment  and  massage,  and  we  can  try 
ultrasound,  but  it  will  go  away.  My  advice  is,  don't  let  anyone 
try  to  operate  or  use  a  needle.  Be  patient" 

When  Archie  Mclndoe  tells  you  to  be  patient,  you're  patient.  1 
began  his  method  of  treatment  in  London  and  continued  it  dally 
when  I  returned  to  La  Braja.  Then,,  about  six  months  later,  Frank 
came  over  to  Spain.  He  came  to  the  house  looked  at  the 
Iump5  which  was  still  as  large  as  a  walnut,  and  said,  "Friends  of 
mine  tell  me  about  this  great  plastic  surgeon  in  New  York.  It 
won't  hurt  to  get  a  second  opinion.  Because,  honey  ^  you  ain't 
gonna  make  any  films  looking  like  that." 

I  agreed.  And  on  my  next  visit  to  New  York, 1  went  to  get  this 
man's  opinion.  He  was  quite  certain  about  how  to  things. 

"We  have  this  new  injection  that  we  can  use  Immediately/'  he 
said.  "It's  a  pity  I  didn't  see  you  right  after  It  happened,  I  could 
have  injected  you  then." 

Naturally,  Archie's  warning  leapt  right  Into  my  head.  "Walt  a 
minute,"  I  began.  "The  surgeon  who  first  advised  me  was  Sir 
Archibald  Mclndoe.  I'm  sure  you've  heard  of  him." 

Of  course  he  knew  about  Archie  Mclndoe,  the  doctor  said, 



barreling  right  along  and  barely  paying  any  attention  to  me.  But 
it  was  still  a  pity  that  I  hadn't  come  to  see  him  immediately.  And 
before  he  began  the  treatment,  he  wanted  to  inform  me  of  his  fee. 
He  was  building  a  new  hospital  in  Texas  and  my  fee,  which  he 
would  naturally  consider  a  contribution  to  that  establishment, 
would  be  one  million  dollars. 

Now  it  was  my  turn  to  be  heedless.  I  stood  up  and  said,  'Tuck 
you  and  your  new  hospital  and  your  outrageous  fees,"  and 
marched  out  the  door.  As  you  can  imagine,  that  was  the  last  I 
saw  of  any  doctor  except  Archie  where  my  hematoma  was  con- 
cerned. And,  just  for  the  record,  I'd  like  to  say  that  not  a  single 
penny  was  I  ever  asked  to  pay  by  Archie  Mclndoe.  To  this  day,  I 
don't  know  why  he  felt  I  was  worth  ten  seconds  of  his  time. 

As  Archie  had  prophesied,  the  lump  slowly  subsided,  though  I 
was  always  conscious  that  it  existed  and  I  began  to  fear  that  my 
film  career  might  be  over.  I  continued  to  visit  Archie  and  I  be- 
came more  involved  with  those  badly  mutilated  pilots.  It  was  the 
best  possible  therapy  for  me,  because  compared  with  their  inju- 
ries, my  lump  couldn't  have  been  more  insignificant. 

What  Archie  did  for  those  boys  my  words  can  never  ade- 
quately describe.  Oh,  God,  their  burns  were  terrible.  Many  had 
hardly  any  faces  left;  some  didn't  have  limbs.  Their  treatments 
were  long  and  often  agonizing;  sometimes  more  than  a  hundred 
operations  were  needed  to  give  them  a  fighting  chance.  But  Ar- 
chie counseled  and  talked  and  gave  them  strength.  I  met  a  lot  of 
them  and  we  danced  and  laughed  together.  They  were  so  brave  I 
could  have  wept.  Archie  told  me  my  visits  did  them  a  lot  of  good, 
but  I'm  sure  they  helped  me  more  than  I  ever  helped  them. 

One  day,  Archie  rang  me  in  Madrid  and  said,  "Ava,  I  want  a 
favor  from  you." 

"It's  yours,"  I  said. 

"We've  got  our  annual  fete  in  a  couple  of  weeks,  a  sort  of 
garden  party  that  raises  funds  for  the  hospital.  I  want  you  to 
come  over  here  to  East  Grinstead  and  sell  your  autographs  in  one 
of  our  tents." 

"God,  I'll  be  terrified." 

"No,  you  won't.  Will  you  do  it?" 

"Of  course." 

My  fears  were  for  once  natural  because  since  the  accident  the 
press  reports  had  described  me  as  half-dead,  crippled,  disfigured 



for  life.  A  lot  of  friends  had  called  me  up  or  written  to  say  how 
sorry  they  were  and  how  they  hoped  I'd  get  better.  Jesus! 

Down  at  East  Grinstead,  Archie  chuckled  at  my  fears,  but  I 
was  wary.  "I  suppose  there'll  be  press  and  photographers  there/' 
I  said. 

"Sure  there  will,"  he  said  in  a  matter-of-fact  voice.  He  crossed 
the  room  and  took  my  chin  gently  in  his  hand.  Turning  my  face 
to  the  light,  he  said  quietly,  "Ava,  there's  nothing  unsightly  on 
your  face  now.  You  can  go  in  front  of  any  camera  in  the  world,  I 
promise  you." 

I  didn't  believe  him.  I  looked  at  my  face  every  morning  in  the 
mirror  and  I  could  feel  the  lump.  Vastly  diminished,  yes,  but  still 
there,  like  a  shadow  under  the  skin.  Despite  Archie's  words,  a  lot 
of  fears  remained  in  my  mind. 

The  morning  of  the  fair,  1  noticed  that  Archie  opened  the 
champagne  rather  early.  We  toasted  each  other,  and  by  the  time  I 
reached  my  place  in  the  tent  I'd  consumed  my  fair  share.  The 
photographers  were  everywhere,  taking  my  picture  from  every 
angle  known  to  God  and  man.  I  was  frightened  out  of  my  mind, 
but  I  was  doing  this  for  Archie,  so  I  smiled  and  signed  auto- 
graphs and  got  through  it  somehow. 

The  next  day,  there  were  glamorous  pictures  of  me  in  all  the 
newspapers,  and  Archie  told  me  what  he  had  done. 

"Ava,"  he  said,  "I  turned  the  press  on  you  deliberately.  I  rang 
every  newspaper  editor  in  London  and  said,  'You  can  come  down 
to  my  fair  and  photograph  Ava  Gardner  from  as  close  as  you 
wish  and  from  any  angle.  And  you  can  see  for  yourself  if  any 
plastic  surgery  has  been  done,  if  any  knife  has  ever  touched  that 
magnificent  face.'" 

That  statement  almost  moved  me  to  tears.  What  more  could 
Archie  have  done  for  me?  Without  letting  on,  he'd  given  me  back 
my  self-confidence.  As  he'd  done  with  so  many  young  airmen,  he 
had  given  me  back  my  life* 



he  Naked  Maja,  a  better  title  than  a  film, 
was  not  my  most  memorable  effort:  a 
rather  tame  biography  of  the  great  Span- 
ish artist  Francisco  Goya.  I  played  the  Duchess  of  Alba,  Goya's 
favorite  model,  and  Tony  Franciosa,  a  very  nice  man  but  a 
method  actor  to  the  teeth,  played  the  painter.  The  lights  would 
be  set,  the  cast  would  be  standing  in  front  of  the  camera  waiting 
for  Tony  to  start  the  scene,  and  he'd  be  standing  off  to  the  side, 
carrying  on  as  if  he  were  choking  to  death  and  nearly  vomiting 
before  he  would  come  on.  Honey,  that  was  one  method  I  could 
live  without. 

Aside  from  Tony,  however,  The  Naked  Maja  stays  in  my  mem- 
ory for  two  reasons.  One  is  that  it  was  the  first  time  I  worked 
with  one  of  the  greatest  cameramen  I've  ever  known,  Giuseppe 
Rotunno,  whose  beautiful  colors  flooded  the  whole  movie.  More 
important,  however,  The  Naked  Maja  was  the  last  picture  I  had 
to  do  on  my  damn  MGM  contract.  When  it  was  over  I  was  free 
at  last — free  to  choose  my  own  projects,  free  to  command  the 
kinds  of  fees  I  was  worth.  It  was  about  time. 

I  didn't  have  to  find  my  first  script  as  a  free  agent;  it  found  me. 
Producer-director  Stanley  Kramer  had  bought  the  rights  to  On 
the  Beach,  Nevil  Shute's  novel  about  the  end  of  the  world,  and  he 
wanted  me  to  play  the  heroine  of  the  piece,  the  heavy-drinking, 
disillusioned  but  still  vulnerable  Moira  Davidson.  I'd  read  the 
book  and  liked  it,  so  I  thought,  Honey,  maybe  this  time  you  can 
make  yourself  some  real  money. 



I  was  still  working  on  The  Naked  Maja  in  Rome  when  the 
thing  came  up,  and  Stanley  agreed  to  fly  across  to  discuss  the 
project.  I  set  up  a  dinner  with  a  few  friends  and  he,  very  sweetly, 
brought  me  a  gift  of  half  a  dozen  flamenco  records.  Of  course,  I 
had  to  play  them,  and,  of  course,  I  had  to  dance  to  them  as  well, 
so  naturally  the  party  went  on  into  the  wee  hours. 

The  next  morning  I  said  to  David  Hanna,  who  was  my  man- 
ager at  the  time,  "What's  the  matter  with  Stanley?  I  set  aside  all 
last  evening  to  get  to  know  him  and  discuss  the  picture,  and  he 
didn't  even  bring  the  subject  up." 

David  smiled  at  that.  "Ava,"  he  said,  "I  just  got  the  same  mes- 
sage from  Stanley.  He  asked  me,  cHow  do  you  do  business  with 
her?  I've  only  got  forty-eight  hours.595 

Once  Stanley  and  I  did  get  together,  things  went  smoothly. 
Shooting  was  to  begin  in  January  1959  and  I  ended  up  with  a 
salary  of  four  hundred  thousand  dollars,  happy  to  finally  have 
the  money  for  my  services  go  to  me  instead  of  the  damn  studio. 
And  I  was  delighted  that  Stanley  was  able  to  secure  the  services 
of  Giuseppe  Rotunno  as  cinematographer,  not  to  mention  a  cast 
that  included  my  old  pal  Greg  Peck,  Fred  Astaire  in  his  first 
straight  dramatic  role  as  a  disillusioned  scientist,  and  a  young 
newcomer  named  Anthony  Perkins  as  an  Australian  naval  officer. 

Though  Fd  read  the  book,  Stanley5s  script  made  me  weep.  You 
couldn5t  say  it  was  marvelous — that  was  somehow  the  wrong 
word.  It  was  compelling,  tragic,  moving,  chilling  ...  I  don't 
know  what  expression  you  can  use  about  the  end  of  the  world. 
Stanley  liked  to  call  it  "the  biggest  story  of  our  time,55  and  who 
could  disagree?  It  was  a  fictional  scenario,  but  my  God,  everyone 
in  the  cast  and  crew  knew  it  could  happen.  And  that  added  a 
dimension  of  reality  to  the  unreal,  world  of  filmmaking  that  none 
of  us  had  experienced  before. 

The  film  was  set  in  1964,  five  years  in  the  future.  A  nuclear 
war,  precipitated  by  a  small,  unnamed  country,  has  ended  all  hu- 
man life  in  the  Northern  Hemisphere,  and  the  southern  half  of 
the  world  is  only  give  four  more  months  to  survive.  The  Aus- 
tralian city  of  Melbourne,  at  the  most  southern  tip  of  that  con- 
tinent, will  survive  the  longest,  but  even  for  the  people  there,  it's 
just  a  matter  of  time. 

Into  Melbourne  harbor  comes  a  U.S.  nuclear  submarine  which 
survived  the  war  intact  only  because  It  was  submerged  when  the 



bombs  went  off.  Its  captain,  Dwight  Lionel  Towers,  lost  his  wife 
Sharon  and  their  two  children.  As  played  by  Greg  Peck,  Towers 
is  a  model  of  decency,  trying  to  put  the  best  face  on  things  and 
do  his  duty  in  a  society  in  which  people  are  preparing  for  the 
inevitable  end  by  handing  out  poison  pills  to  all  and  sundry. 

Inevitably,  Captain  Towers  falls  in  love  with  my  character,  the 
cynical,  boozy  but  very  human  Moira  Davidson.  It's  a  tough  rela- 
tionship because  he  is  still  very  much  in  love  with  his  wife  as 
well,  and  at  times  confuses  her  with  me.  And  both  of  us  can't  flee 
from  the  knowledge  of  how  finite  our  span  on  earth  is.  "If 
Sharon  were  alive,"  I  tell  a  pal,  "I'd  do  any  mean  trick  to  get 
him.  There  isn't  time.  No  time  to  love." 

One  thing  I  definitely  didn't  love  was  being  on  location  in  Mel- 
bourne, Not  that  the  Australian  people  weren't  wonderful  indi- 
vidually; they  were — down-to-earth,  gutsy,  and  awfully  friendly. 
In  groups,  however,  they  seemed  overwhelmed  by  the  idea  of 
being  the  location  for  a  Hollywood  movie,  something  that  had 
never  happened  to  the  city  before.  There  were  crowds  every- 
where, and  everything  we  did  seemed  to  cause  controversy.  When 
we  had  to  cordon  off  a  city  block  on  a  Sunday  morning,  for 
instance — something  that  citizens  usually  take  in  stride — one  of 
the  country's  leading  churchmen  lambasted  Stanley  for  interfer- 
ing with  "one  of  the  fundamental  freedoms — freedom  of  wor- 
ship" because  a  church  happened  to  be  on  the  block. 

And,  naturally,  we  hit  a  heat  wave  when  we  were  there,  with 
temperatures  regularly  going  over  one  hundred  degrees.  And  I 
don't  have  to  be  bashful  about  stating  what  every  Aussie  will 
agree  to:  that  the  drinking  situation  at  that  time  was  nearly  as 
bad  as  it  was  back  home  during  Prohibition.  Joy  left  town  every 
night  at  six  P.M.  sharp,  as  every  pub  on  the  continent  closed.  At 
restaurants,  any  wine  you  happened  to  be  drinking  with  your 
meal  was  snatched  from  the  table  promptly  at  9  P.M.  and  taken 
down  and  locked  away  with  the  rest  of  the  forbidden  fruit. 

Fortunately,  Greg  Peck  and  his  wife  Veronique  had  not  only 
rented  a  huge  old  Victorian  house,  they'd  had  the  foresight  to 
bring  their  own  French  chef  with  them.  The  Pecks'  place  became 
a  second  home  for  me,  Fred,  Stanley,  and  Anthony  Perkins,  who 
was  shy  about  everything  but  attacking  his  plate. 

And  poor  Stanley,  used  to  the  good  things  of  Hollywood, 
found  to  his  chagrin  that  he  had  to  ship  a  great  deal  of  equip- 



ment  and  props  from  America,  including  a  pair  of  mobile  gener- 
ators and  a  mobile  dressing  room.  The  Australian  navy  helped 
him  out  with  the  temporary  loan  of  an  aircraft  carrier,  and  the 
Royal  Navy  pitched  in  with  one  of  their  submarines,  HMS 

As  far  as  studio  space  went,  Stanley  also  had  to  improvise.  He 
got  the  use  of  the  Royal  Showgrounds,  a  massive  establishment 
used  most  of  the  year  for  storing  wool,  of  all  things.  His  produc- 
tion office  was  in  an  auto  showroom  and  his  wardrobe  depart- 
ment in  a  place  that  usually  housed  farm  tools.  None  of  the 
indoor  facilities  were  properly  soundproofed,  and  on  days  when 
things  like  Billy  Graham  revivals  took  place  nearby,  filming  be- 
came awfully  difficult. 

Still,  despite  all  these  troubles,  On  the  Beach  contains  some 
fine  technical  achievements,  most  of  them  due  to  the  genius  of 
Pepe  Rotunno.  One  scene  had  Greg  and  me  kissing  in  front  of  a 
campfire  as  the  camera  circles  us  from  a  distance  and  does  a 
beautiful  three-hundred-and-sixty-degree  turn  that  the  other  tech- 
nicians kept  telling  Pepe  wasn't  possible.  By  the  time  the  camera 
was  finished  circling,  it  might  have  qualified  for  the  longest  kiss 
in  screen  history,  but  Jesus  Christ,  hanging  In  there  for  almost 
two  minutes  was  very  exhausting. 

The  film  ends  with  Captain  Tower  bowing  to  his  men's  wishes 
and  taking  his  ship  back  to  the  States  so  they  can  die  near  their 
loved  ones.  I  was  saying  good-bye  to  him — forever.  He  was  leav- 
ing— forever.  As  I  run  toward  him  on  the  dock,  you  can  just  see 
our  two  profiles  come  together  as  the  sun  sets  between  our  lips.  It 
was  a  shot  that  once  again  everyone  said  was  impossible,  because 
Pepe  was  shooting  straight  into  the  sun,  but  he  made  it  work, 
and  I  personally  think  it's  one  of  the  greatest  in  cinema  history. 
You  know  some  shots  will  live  in  your  memory  forever,  and  that 
one  always  will  in  mine. 

On  the  Beach  premiered  simultaneously  in  eighteen  of  the 
world's  most  important  cities  on  December  17,  1959.  The  idea 
was  to  position  it  as  a  film  you  had  to  see  if  you  never  saw  an- 
other one  as  long  as  you  lived,  and  because  of  Its  subject  matter, 
the  film  quickly  moved  off  the  movie  page  and  onto  the  front 
page.  The  New  York  Journal- American,  for  instance,  headlined 
'"On  the  Beach'  Hits  Like  an  Atom  Bomb." 

Everywhere  the  film  opened,  controversy  went  with  it.  The 



New  York  Daily  News  ran  an  editorial  calling  it  "a  defeatist 
movie"  and  insisting  that  "the  thinking  it  represents  points  the 
way  toward  eventual  enslavement  of  the  entire  human  race." 
Even  as  patrician  an  observer  as  Stewart  Alsop  was  moved  to 
comment  that  "it  is  simply  not  true  that  a  nuclear  war  would 
mean  'everybody  killed  in  the  world  and  nothing  left  at  all,  like 
in  On  the  Beach:" 

As  for  my  performance,  the  critics  couldn't  seem  to  decide 
what  was  more  surprising:  how  well  I  acted  or  how  unglamorous 
I  looked.  Newsweek  was  typical,  deciding  that  "Miss  Gardner 
has  never  looked  worse  or  been  more  effective."  Frankly,  I  didn't 
care  what  the  hell  they  thought.  I  was  proud  of  being  part  of  this 
film,  proud  of  what  it  said. 

A  footnote  to  my  Australia  stay  was  that  it  marked  the  end  of 
my  long  and  generally  pleasant  relationship  with  Walter  ChiarL 
He'd  come  across  for  a  few  weeks  and  did  not  amuse  me  when  in 
one  of  the  shows  he  gave  at  a  local  theater  he  did  a  takeoff  on 
Frank  Sinatra.  I  had  suspected  for  a  long  time  that  Walter  was 
more  interested  in  the  publicity  he  gained  from  our  relationship 
than  he  was  in  our  having  a  private  life.  This  was  made  clear  in 
spades  when  he  felt  he  had  to  make  a  statement  to  the  press 
about  us  before  he  left  Australia. 

"No  one  has  to  feel  sorry  because  they  think  I've  been  hurt?" 
he  said.  "I  know  when  I'm  hurt  and  I  know  how  much  hurt  I'm 
willing  to  take.  I  suffer  because  I  love  Ava,  and  I  love  her  because 
I  understand  her,  because  I  know  she  is  so  good  and  defenseless, 
and  because  I  know  she  suffers." 

Hell,  he  might  just  as  well  have  written  me  a  personal  letter 
with  a  copy  sent  to  the  press. 

On  a  more  positive  note,  my  private  life  got  a  lift  when  the  real 
Mr.  Sinatra  called  and  told  me  he  was  flying  to  Australia  to  see 
me.  What's  six  thousand  miles  when  you're  still  in  love? 

Ostensibly  Frank  was  coming  down  to  give  two  concerts  in 
Melbourne  and  two  in  Sydney.  The  truth  was,  we  wanted  to  talk, 
to  look  at  each  other,  to  be  together.  The  press  were,  as  usual,  as 
thick  as  flies  on  the  beach,  but  we  had  our  ways  and  means  of 
being  private.  And  with  only  two  nights,  we  didn't  even  have 
time  to  have  a  fight! 



worked  with  Ava  over  the  years  In  three  to- 
tally different  movies;  The  Great  Sinner,  The 
Snows  of  Kilimanjaro,  and  On  the  Beach. 
Certainly  Ava  grew  in  experience  and  maturity  with  every  one  of 
them.  I've  always  admired  her  as  an  actress  and  felt  that  she  was 
underrated  because  people  were  deceived  by  her  beauty  and  did 
not  expect  more  from  her.  Also,  she  herself  was  not  overly  am- 
bitious about  becoming  a  great  actress.  Yet  she  did  constantly 
improve  and  at  her  best  I  think  she  could  certainly  be  counted 
among  the  better  actresses  on  the  screen. 

The  first  thing  everyone  noticed  about  Ava  was  that  excep- 
tional beauty,  but  as  a  young  fellow  I  was  not  as  bowled  over  by 
that  as  older  fellows  were.  Yes,  Ava  was  a  beautiful  girl,  but  I  had 
met  other  beautiful  girls.  Our  relationship  was  and  always  has 
been  as  pals.  I  suppose  some  fellas  would  say,  "Oh,  come  on,  this 
is  one  of  the  most  desirable  and  beautiful  women  in  the  world, 
and  you  tell  me  you  were  just  pals?"  And  the  answer  is  yes,  that's 
the  truth.  You  don't  make  a  ran  at  every  beautiful  girl  you  meet 
It's  quite  possible  for  a  young  man  and  a  young  woman  in  their 
prime  years  to  be  great  friends. 

What  I  liked  about  Ava  was  that  we  had  so  much  in  common 
it  was  like  we  were  young  people  from  the  same  hometown.  We 
both  were  products  of  middle-class,  small  American  towns  where 
everybody  knew  everybody,  and  it  was  on  that  basis  that  we 
struck  up  an  immediate  friendship.  Ava  was  also  outspoken,  and 
there  was  something  refreshing  about  that  because  sometimes 



she'd  be  outspoken  when  other  people  would  be  afraid  to.  That 
to  me  shows  a  strength  of  character  and  the  kind  of  grass-roots, 
middle-American  honesty  she  has.  Sometimes  I've  thought  that 
except  for  that  out-of-the-world  beauty — that  sensational  bone 
structure,  those  eyes,  and  that  figure — she  was  typical  of  dozens 
of  girls  I  knew  in  high  school  and  college.  But  that  beauty  shaped 
and  changed  her,  and  she  became  an  object  of  pursuit,  adulation, 
and  attention  such  as  few  girls  ever  know. 

Ava  was  not  as  ambitious  as  I  was.  I  think  I  worked  more  at 
the  acting,  did  more  homework,  more  preparation.  I  came  from 
the  theater  and  I  had  a  great  respect  for  fine  acting.  Ava  was 
more  diffident  about  her  talent,  and  I  always  had  a  tendency  to 
encourage  her  and  even,  God  help  me,  to  coach  her  a  little  bit.  I 
wanted  her  to  be  good,  to  be  her  best.  I  must  have  told  her  hun- 
dreds of  times  that  she  had  it  in  her  to  be  a  great  actress,  that  all 
she  needed  was  a  little  more  courage  to  attack,  to  go  at  a  scene 
with  the  intention  of  selling  it,  of  grasping  the  audience's  atten- 
tion and  holding  it. 

But  as  often  as  you  would  tell  her,  she  was  always  a  little  re- 
luctant about  asserting  herself.  Also,  her  development  as  an 
actress  wasn't  easy  because  everyone — directors,  producers,  and 
to  a  certain  extent  the  critics  and  the  audience — was  perfectly 
happy  just  to  look  at  her.  It  was  okay  if  she  just  said  her  lines  and 
walked  through  without  being  awkward  or  amateurish  or 
clumsy.  They  really  didn't  expect  her  to  get  beneath  the  skin  of  a 
part  the  same  way  that  Bette  Davis,  for  instance,  always  did.  And 
Ava  used  to  whisper  in  those  days,  which  I  think  was  due  to  the 
way  they  taught  acting  at  MGM.  They  thought  this  whispering 
projected  a  kind  of  sex  appeal  and  also  covered  for  a  lack  of 
acting  experience.  Rita  Hayworth  did  it,  too;  it's  a  kind  of 

The  Great  Sinner,  which  came  out  in  1949,  was  based  very 
vaguely  on  Dostoyevsky's  The  Gambler,,  with  me  as  the  serious 
young  man  who  can't  resist  the  lure  of  the  tables.  Directed  by 
Robert  Siodmak,  it  had  a  big-time  cast,  including  Walter  Huston, 
Agnes  Moorehead,  Ethel  Barrymore,  and  Melvyn  Douglas,  and 
here  was  young  Ava,  who'd  only  learned  to  whisper  her  lines  in 
that  young  ladies'  finishing  school  at  MGM,  holding  the  screen 
very  well.  And  remember,  those  big-time  people  don't  give  any- 
thing away.  They  come  on-screen  and  expect  to  dominate  every- 
thing and  everybody. 



But  it  was  very  hard  to  dominate  Ava  because  of  her  essential 
strength  of  character,  her  honesty,  and  this  almost  unreal  beauty. 
And  this  was  true  even  though  she  was  not  like  some  actresses 
who  are  in  there  scratching  and  scraping  and  fighting  to  domi- 
nate every  scene.  Ava  is  quite  content  to  let  somebody  else  domi- 
nate. But  of  course  they  never  quite  completely  do  because  she's 
there.  You're  liable  to  find  yourself  looking  at  Ava  when  some- 
body else  is  acting  their  heart  out  and  chewing  up  the  curtains. 

Ava  and  I  had  a  mutually  shared  tendency  on  this  picture  to 
disregard  the  director,  because  Robert  Siodmak  was  an  absolute 
nervous  wreck.  He  was  a  hyperthyroid  type  in  the  first  place, 
jittery  and  nervous,  and  now  he  had  the  responsibility  for  this 
very  "heavy"  picture  on  his  shoulders. 

There  was  usually  a  nurse  present  on  the  set,  and  a  couple  of 
times  a  day,  when  Siodmak  was  talking  to  the  cameraman  or  the 
actors,  shouting  and  gesticulating,  she'd  just  sidle  up  to  him,  roll 
up  his  sleeve,  and  jab  a  needle  in  his  arm.  I  don't  know  if  it  was 
vitamins  or  a  tranquillizer,  something  to  keep  him  from  going 
right  through  the  roof.  Whatever  it  was,  he  wouldn't  pay  any 
attention  to  it. 

At  other  times,  with  hundreds  of  people  in  the  casino  scene 
and  Melvyn  Douglas  eyeing  me  as  I'm  gambling  away  and  Ava 
standing  there  watching  me  lose  my  shirt,  Bob  would  really  be 
overcome  with  the  weight  of  the  situation.  He  was  always  sitting 
on  the  seat  attached  to  the  camera  crane,  and  he'd  mutter,  "Up, 
up,  up"  and  off  he'd  go  to  hide  eighteen  feet  above  the  crowds 
while  he  collected  his  thoughts.  And  Ava  and  I  would  grin  at 
each  other  and  say,  "There  he  goes  again!" 

As  for  The  Snows  of  Kilimanjaro,  it  was  certainly  successful  at 
the  box  office.  While  success  at  the  box  office  does  not  always 
mean  artistic  greatness,  this  was  certainly  a  wholehearted  at- 
tempt, a  serious  effort  to  make  a  fine  Hemingway  picture. 

We  had  of  course  a  very  good  director  in  Henry  King.  I  made 
six  pictures  with  him.  I  loved  him  and  respected  him,  and  I  think 
Ava  did,  too.  I  believe  that  her  work  was  much  more  subtle,  and 
that  she  acquired  much  more  confidence  under  his  direction.  She 
did  things  in  Kilimanjaro  that  she  could  not  have  done  three 
years  earlier  in  The  Great  Sinner.  And  I  think  that  is  largely  be- 
cause Henry  King  was  the  kind  of  man  she  could  trust.  Ava  felt 
good  with  Henry  King.  He  was  an  old-time  director  who'd 



started  in  silent  films,  and  he  understood  his  trade  and  he  under- 
stood actors. 

He  loved  lying,  he  was  a  lifelong  flier.  A  man's  man.  A  tall 
handsome  fellow.  Probably  in  his  early  sixties  at  that  time,  with 
very  clear  pale  blue  eyes.  A  couple  of  actresses  I  knew  who  had 
worked  with  him  said  when  he  looked  at  you  with  those  pale 
blue  eyes  your  knees  melted.  I  think  that  Henry  definitely  had  an 
appeal  for  the  ladies.  He  was  a  Virginia  gentleman  of  the  old 
school,  and  I  think  that  Ava  trusted  him  because  there  was  that 
Southern  flavor  that  she  understood.  And  he  understood  her.  I 
think  he  gave  her  confidence  and  suggestions  that  made  it  possi- 
ble for  her  to  come  out  and  be  a  little  more  assertive.  With  Henry 
she  was  able  to  allow  her  emotions  to  have  fuller  play,  to  allow 
her  emotions  to  dictate  her  playing,  and  to  begin  to  get  a  sense  of 
what  acting  is  really  like.  I've  always  had  a  theory — I  think  prob- 
ably most  actors  think  that  way— that  the  emotion  below  the 
surface  is  like  an  underground  river  that  has  to  flow  through  the 
entire  story.  Sometimes  it's  a  calm  emotion.  Sometimes  it's  vio- 
lent. Sometimes  it's  a  mixture  of  the  two.  But  that  dictates  what 
the  external  actor  is  doing  and  saying,  the  facial  expressions  and 
what  she  or  he  looks  like.  It  all  has  to  come  from  that  under- 
ground river  of  emotion.  The  words  will  come  out  right  if  the 
river  is  flowing  below.  And  I  think  Ava  began  to  be  able  to  act 
like  that  by  the  time  we  did  Kilimanjaro.  I  remember  that  in 
some  of  those  scenes  she  was  very  moving  and  touching,  and 
very,  very  sympathetic. 

Stanley  Kramer,  who  produced  and  directed  On  the  Beach,  is  a 
filmmaker  who,  whether  the  subject  is  racial  prejudice  or  the  nu- 
clear arms  race,  very  much  wants  to  say  something  about  crucial 
matters  of  world  importance.  He  seized  on  Nevil  Shute's  book 
and  said,  "I'm  going  to  make  a  picture  and  perhaps  I  can  have 
some  effect  on  people's  attitude,  perhaps  I  can  change  their  mind- 
set about  the  dangers  of  nuclear  buildup."  I  think  we  all  became 
somewhat  imbued  with  Stanley's  mission,  we  all  wanted  to  help 
him  do  it,  including  Ava.  I  believe  that  she  felt  good  about  being 
in  that  picture. 

It  did  turn  into  quite  an  adventure,  however.  Terribly  hot. 
There  was  a  spell  where  the  temperature  was  over  one  hundred 
degrees.  Ava  and  I,  our  characters  having  become  lovers,  were 
trying  to  play  a  lighthearted  romantic  scene  on  a  beach.  But  the 



air  was  so  thick  with  flies  they  almost  blackened  the  skies.  There 
would  be  thousands  of  flies  crawling  on  Ava's  forehead  and  in 
her  hair,  and  the  effects  men  would  rush  in  with  a  smoke  gun 
and  blow  smoke  in  our  faces.  That  would  get  rid  of  the  flies  for  a 
minute  or  two  and  allow  us  to  say  a  few  lines  before  they  settled 
in  again. 

I  have  worked  with  a  few  actresses,  who  will  remain  nameless, 
who  would  just  not  work  under  those  conditions.  But  Ava  was 
never,  never  the  kind  of  actress  who  would  complain  about  her 
working  conditions.  She  took  it  like  a  trouper  and  we  just  kept 
plugging  away  despite  everything  until  we  got  the  scene. 

In  Nevil  Shute's  novel,  my  character  determined  that  since  he 
was  going  to  die,  he  would  die  faithful  and  true  to  the  wife 
whom  he  loved.  This  in  spite  of  being  terribly  attracted  to  Ava's 
character  and  it  being  obvious  that  they  were  meant  to  be  lovers. 
But  he  resisted  the  temptation,  and  she  understood  that.  So  when 
they  parted,  when  his  submarine  steamed  out  of  Melbourne  har- 
bor and  she  stood  on  the  point  waving  to  him,  it  was  a  love  that 
had  not  been  consummated.  That's  what  Nevil  Shute  wrote. 

Stanley  Kramer,  however,  decided  that  the  audience  just 
wouldn't  accept  that  a  man  like  me  would  be  able  to  resist  a 
beautiful,  willing  woman  who  was  in  love  with  him.  "We  have  to 
give  them  some  sex,"  he  said.  "This  is  a  serious  picture,  it's  about 
the  death  of  the  world,  and  we  have  to  give  them  some  romance 
and  sex."  I  told  Stanley  he  was  wrong,  that  he  was  corrupting  my 
character  and  Ava's  character,  that  self-denial  on  a  matter  of 
principle  was  romantic.  But  he  didn't  agree.  And  Nevil  Shute  al- 
ways hated  that  scene. 

By  the  time  we  did  On  the  Beach,  Ava  had  a  wonderful  style. 
There  were  certain  things  she  did  that  I  think  no  one  could  equal. 
She  was  perfect  for  On  the  Beach,  and  1  don't  know  of  anyone 
who  could  match  her  performance  in  The  Snows  of  Kilimanjaro. 
She  had  this  natural  poignancy  and  her  feelings  ran  very  deep.  To 
my  mind  she  developed  into  a  fine  actress.  I've  been  telling  her 
that  for  years,  and  she  always  waves  it  off. 



he  Night  of  the  Iguana  started  with  a 
phone  call.  The  year  was  1963  and  I  was 
sitting  around  in  Spain,  getting  up  late, 
talking  to  my  friends,  dancing  flamenco  all  night  long.  In  short,  I 
was  enjoying  life  and  minding  my  own  business  and  I  wanted  to 
go  on  doing  so.  I  did  not  want  to  be  in  a  movie  at  all  And  then 
the  damn  phone  rang. 

"Ava,  dariin',"  a  voice  said.  No  one  could  ever  mistake 
that  quiet,  smoky,  Irish-flavored  way  of  talking.  I  hadn't  heard 
it  in  eighteen  years,  since  a  certain  party  had  chased  me  around 
a  swimming  pool,  but  I  knew  it  could  only  belong  to  John 

"We're  here  in  Madrid,"  the  voice  said. 

"Who's  we?"  I  asked  suspiciously.  John  on  the  phone  could 
only  mean  work,  and  the  three  pictures  I'd  done  since  On  the 
Beach — The  Angel  Wore  Red,  55  Days  at  Peking,  and  Seven 
Days  in  May — didn't  exactly  make  me  bubble  over  with  enthusi- 
asm at  the  thought  of  getting  back  in  front  of  the  camera. 

"Ray  Stark  and  I.  Nice  guy.  Producer.  He's  bought  the  rights 
to  Tennessee  Williams'  fine  new  play,  The  Night  of  the  Iguana. 
Great  part  in  it  for  you." 

And  before  I  can  tell  him  what  to  do  with  that  great  part,  John 
slips  in  a  line  he  knows  I  can't  resist.  "What  about  a  drink 
tonight?  Show  us  the  town." 

That's  okay  by  me.  I'm  into  this  hospitality  business.  After 
three  or  four  days  of  my  usual  regimen,  I'd  thoroughly  ex- 



hausted  the  gentlemen  from  Hollywood.  But  they  must  have 
gotten  to  me,  too,  because  I  agreed  to  do  the  film  and  they 
agreed  to  pay  me  five  hundred  thousand  dollars.  And  that  was 
the  start  of  my  relationship  with  John,  one  of  the  greatest  and 
most  enduring  friendships  of  my  life,  one  that  lasted  until  the 
day  he  died. 

As  written  for  the  screen  by  John  and  Tony  Veiiler,  Iguana,  if 
not  exactly  identical  to  what  had  opened  on  Broadway  in  1961, 
still  was  powerful  stuff.  Though  most  of  the  action  takes  place  in 
Mexico,  the  film  opens  in  suburban  Virginia,  where  Episcopal 
minister  T.  Lawrence  Shannon  (Richard  Burton,  back  from 
Cleopatra  and  Becket)  has  a  nervous  breakdown  right  in  front  of 
his  congregation,  screaming  about  having  appetites  that  just  had 
to  be  satisfied. 

The  good  padre,  it  turns  out,  had  been  having  an  affair  with 
one  of  his  younger  parishioners,  conduct  unbecoming  enough  to 
cause  him  to  be  turned  out  of  his  church  for  good  and  alL  We 
next  see  him  in  Mexico  as  an  alcoholic  employee  of  Blake's  Tours 
("Tours  of  God's  World  Conducted  by  a  Man  of  God").  He's 
showing  the  country  to  a  group  of  vacationing  teachers  from  a 
Baptist  Female  College,  whose  number  includes  a  seductive  little 
Texas  wench  named  Charlotte  Goodall  (played  by  Lolita's  Sue 
Lyon)  who  casts  a  greedy  eye  on  poor  Shannon. 

When  Shannon  and  Charlotte  are  caught  in  an  indiscreet 
position  in  Shannon's  room,  Charlotte's  chaperone  threatens 
to  expose  the  poor  man  to  his  employers  for  the  reprobate 
he  is.  In  a  frenzied  and  ultimately  unsuccessful  attempt  to  avoid 
this,  Shannon  takes  the  bus  and  the  tourists  to  the  only  place 
he's  ever  felt  comfortable  in,  a  run-down  establishment  called 
Hotel  Costa  Verde.  Which  is  where  I  come  in.  I  play  the  good- 
hearted,  hang-loose  proprietor  of  the  place,  Maxine  Fauik,  the 
widow  of  Shannon's  best  friend  and  a  pretty  good  buddy  of  his 

Though  the  mountaintop  Costa  Verde  is  supposedly  closed  for 
the  season,  I  soon  end  up  with  another  pair  of  guests.  A  penniless 
spinster  artist  named  Hannah  Jelkes  (played  by  Deborah  Kerr) 
shows  up  accompanied  by  her  ninety-seven-year-old  grandfather, 
"the  world's  oldest  living  and  practicing  poet." 

Soon  Hannah  and  Shannon  are  engaged  in  long-winded  di- 
alogues about  the  meaning  of  life,  something  that  really  gets 



Maxine?s  goat.  She  suspects,  not  totally  without  cause,  that 
the  spinster  and  Shannon  have  something  of  a  yen  for  each 
other.  But  at  the  film's  close,  little  Charlotte  has  hooked  op  with 
the  bus  driver,,  Hannah  walks  off  into  the  sunset  alone  and  a 
chastened  Shannon  and  Maxine  are  left  together.  They  talk  about 
going  down  to  the  beach  for  a  swim,  and  when  Shannon  tells  her 
he  doesn't  know  if  he  can  get  back  up  the  mountain,  Maxine 
promises,  'Til  get  you  back  up5  honey.  I'll  always  get  you 
back  up." 

Williams  had  set  his  play  in  Acapulco,  but  God  forbid 
that  John,  whose  motto  clearly  was,  "Do  things  the  hard  way 
whenever  possible,"  should  even  consider  filming  there.  Instead 
he  hit  on  the  idea  of  Puerto  Vallarta,  a  remote  spot  on  the  Pacific 
coast  of  Mexico  that  had  been  called  the  most  unlikely  resort  this 
side  of  the  Hindu  Kush.  There  were  no  roads  into  the  town, 
no  telephones  either,  and  both  plumbing  and  electricity  were 
decidedly  erratic.  When  John  told  people,  "It's  not  at  all  like  get- 
ting up  in  the  morning  and  driving  to  MGM,"  he  was  not  kid- 

And  if  Puerto  Vallarta  wasn't  inaccessible  enough,  the  actual 
Iguana  filming  was  done  on  an  isolated  peninsula  called  Mis- 
maloya  located  some  eight  to  ten  miles  further  away.  Reachable 
only  by  boat,  and  so  small  it  wasn't  even  on  the  map,  Mismaloya 
was  nothing  more  than  a  tiny  fishing  hamlet  where  about  a  hun- 
dred Indians  lived  in  thatched  huts.  Behind  the  village  was  a 
mountain  plateau  where,  three  hundred  feet  above  the  water, 
John  had  the  hotel  set  constructed.  I  called  it  "Hollywood  on  the 

John  had  initially  wanted  everyone  involved  in  the  film  to  live 
on  Mismaloya,  but  some  of  us  understandably  rebelled.  Richard 
Burton  and  Elizabeth  Taylor,  who  was  in  residence  with  him, 
rented  a  four-story  villa  in  Puerto  Vallarta  and  made  the  daily 
trip  to  the  location  in  a  yacht.  I  chose  a  speedboat,  which  I 
mostly  waterskied  behind,  and  though  my  place  in  Puerto  Val- 
larta had  one  of  the  first  air  conditioners  ever  seen  in  those  parts, 
believe  me,  honey,  living  there  was  no  picnic. 

Reenie  and  I  lived  in  a  funny  little  place  with  a  high  wall, 
but  one  not  high  enough  to  deter  the  Mexican  beach  boys, 
young  kids  who  climbed  over  every  night  looking  for  a  place  to 
sleep.  Because  after  you  climbed  the  wall,  everything  in  the 



place  was  totally  open — there  were  no  doors  on  any  of  the 

Going  to  the  bathroom5  which  was  often  a  dire  necessity,  was 
also  an  adventure.  You  might  find  a  cat  or  a  dog  or  a  rat  as  big  as 
either  one  of  them  waiting  for  you.  I  remember  one  night  we'd 
worked  late,  and  I  had  my  dinner  brought  to  my  bed  on  a  plate.  I 
nibbled  at  it,  put  the  plate  on  the  floor,  fell  into  bed,  and 
promptly  went  to  sleep.  By  the  morning,  the  rats  had  eaten  it  all. 
I'm  surprised  they  hadn't  eaten  me  as  well. 

Filming  o'h  Iguana  began  at  the  end  of  September  1963,  and 
though  my  character  didn't  appear  until  about  page  forty  of  the 
script,  John,  who  had  determined  to  shoot  in  continuity,  wanted 
everyone  there  for  the  start.  Soon  after  we  got  there,  John  called 
together  Richard  and  Elizabeth,  Deborah  Kerr,  Sue  Lyon,  Ray 
Stark,  and  me  and  solemnly  presented  each  of  us  with  a  small 
gold-plated  derringer  and  five  bullets,  each  engraved  with  the 
name  of  one  of  the  other  recipients.  Naturally,  the  old  fox  hadn't 
put  his  name  on  any  of  the  damn  bullets.  John  didn't  say  any- 
thing, he  just  walked  away  looking  bland.  It  was,  Deborah  Kerr 
later  said,  "almost  like  the  start  of  an  Agatha  Christie  mystery 
novel."  I  immediately  locked  mine  in  a  suitcase — I  can't  stand 

Yet,  despite  the  potential  for  a  fracas  presented  by  the  combi- 
nation of  this  high-powered  cast  and  our  godforsaken  location, 
we  all  got  along  remarkably  well.  For  one  thing,  Elizabeth  and  I 
were  friends  from  the  old  Metro  days.  It's  like  we  were  two  grad- 
uates from  the  same  alma  mater,  pleased  to  find  each  other  in  the 

And  though  this  was  the  first  time  I'd  met  Richard,  I  felt  the 
same  way  about  him.  He  was  like  someone  I  would've  liked  to 
have  had  for  a  brother,  and  his  teasing  manner  made  me  feel 
at  ease.  He  was  also  a  ferocious  drinker,  at  whose  instigation 
John  put  bars  -both  at  the  foot  and  at  the  top  of  our  long,  hun- 
dred-plus-stairs climb  to  the  mountain  plateau.  But  when  we 
worked  together,  I  went  up  on  lines  more  often  than  he  did.  In 
one  scene,  when  I  was  supposed  to  say,  "In  a  pig's  eye  you  are," 
what  came  out  was,  "In  a  pig's  ass  you  are."  Old  habits  die 
awfully  hard. 

All  this  equanimity,  however,  was  really  hard  on  the  gentlemen 
of  the  press,  who  came  down  to  the  location  in  enormous  num- 



bers  expecting  who  knows  what  kind  of  a  ruckus.  Even  when 
nothing  was  going  on,  they  sent  back  stories  with  headlines  like 
"Liz,  Richard,  Ava,  and  Sue— Mighty  Tense  in  the  Jungle"  and 
"Liz  Keeps  Her  Eye  on  Burton  and  Ava  Gardner."  They  were  so 
hungry  for  anything  to  write  about  that  when  poor  Sue  Lyon  got 
bitten  by  a  scorpion,  the  story  made  the  goddamn  New  York 

Even  more  preposterous  was  the  fairy  tale,  which  was  sent  all 
around  the  world,  that  I  was  going  to  marry  the  film's  associate 
director,  Emilio  Fernandez.  Emilio  had  once  been  a  director  him- 
self, but  he  had  a  tendency,  John  used  to  say,  to  shoot  people  he 
didn't  like.  He'd  winged  his  last  producer,  and  that  was  that.  The 
man  was  a  character,  but  there  as  much  chance  of  my  marrying 
him  as  the  man  in  the  moon.  But  that  didn't  stop  papers  like 
the  Los  Angeles  Herald-Examiner  from  running  stories  with 
headlines  like  "Ava's  New  Mexican  Flame  Is  a  Pistol-Packin' 
Firebrand,"  And  people  ask  me  why  I  get  so  furious  with  the 

In  fact,  the  only  member  of  the  cast  who  acted  up  at  all — 
unless  you  count  Sue  Lyon's  continual  making  out  with  her  boy- 
friend as  acting  up — was  the  iguana.  At  a  key  point  in  the  script, 
the  damned  fat  lizard  is  supposed  to  make  a  rush  for  his  freedom, 
no  doubt  symbolizing  something  profound  about  the  human  con- 
dition. Well,  when  the  time  came,  that  iguana  had  conditions 
of  his  own:  he  was  so  fat  and  happy  after  being  treated  like 
a  pet  for  weeks  that  he  absolutely  refused  to  go  anywhere.  And 
who  the  hell  can  blame  him?  It  took  a  few  well-placed  jolts 
of  electricity  to  get  the  poor  guy  to  scuttle  off  like  he  was  sup- 
posed to. 

There  were  two  bad  moments  in  the  making  of  The  Night  of 
the  Iguana.  Though  the  cast  didn't  stay  there,  quite  a  few  of  the 
crew  lived  in  Mismaloya  (they  called  it  Abismaloya)  in  a  collec- 
tion of  apartment  blocks  that  had  been  specially  built  for  their 
use.  Not  terribly  well  built,  however,  as  it  turned  out.  Because 
late  one  night  in  mid-November,  Tommy  Shaw,  John's  veteran 
assistant  director,  and  Terry  Moore,  the  second  a.d.,  walked  out 
onto  their  balcony  only  to  have  it  totally  collapse  underneath 
them.  They  both  fell  nearly  twenty  feet  to  the  hard  ground  be- 
low. Terry  was  okay,  but  Tommy  had  broken  his  back;  people 
said  it  was  a  miracle  that  he  hadn't  died.  He  had  to  be  rushed  to 



a  hospital  immediately,  and  the  guys  put  him  on  a  board  and 
carried  him  shoulder  high  out  to  a  boat,  into  Puerto  Vallarta  and 
onto  an  airplane.  Fortunately,  he  survived  to  work  on  more  of 
John's  films. 

One  evening  less  than  a  week  later,  the  news  was  worse.  We 
were  all  crowded  into  one  motorboat  coming  home,  full  of  equal 
portions  of  song  and  tequila,  when  we  noticed  Ray  Stark's  ocean- 
going yacht,  which  he  occasionally  took  back  and  forth  to  Los 
Angeles,  closing  in  on  us.  He  had  picked  up  a  terrible  news  flash 
on  his  radio:  President  John  F.  Kennedy  had  been  assassinated. 
The  boat's  air  of  drunken  cheerfulness  turned  immediately  to  so- 
briety, silence,  and  tears. 

Despite  all  this  tragedy,  I  was  determined  to  do  my  best  in 
Iguana.  I  even  made  myself  look  awful,  had  lines  penciled  in  un- 
der my  eyes,  because  it  was  that  kind  of  part.  My  hair  was  pulled 
back  into  a  tight  ponytail  and  I  didn't  wear  anything  except  a 
sloppy  serape  and  toreador  pants.  And  John  let  me  go  back  to 
my  North  Carolina  accent,  which  meant  that  I  got  to  say  things 
like  "cotton-pickin' "  and  call  folks  "honey,"  which,  you  can 
imagine,  wasn't  exactly  a  strain. 

Dear  John.  I  have  only  one  rule  in  acting — trust  the  director 
and  give  him  heart  and  soul.  And  the  director  I  trusted  most  of 
all  was  John  Huston.  Working  with  him  gave  me  the  only  real 
joy  I've  ever  had  in  movies. 

Take,  for  instance,  the  scene  1  have  when  Maxine  goes  for  a 
romantic  swim  with  the  two  beach  boys  she  keeps  around  the 
hotel  for  just  such  occasions.  I  was  nervous  about  doing  it,  and 
John,  bless  him,  understood.  He  stripped  down  to  his  shorts  and 
got  into  the  water  with  me  for  a  rehearsal,  showing  me  exactly 
how  he  wanted  it  to  go,  then  directed  the  scene  soaking  wet. 
That  is  my  kind  of  director. 

And  John  helped  with  the  conceptualizing  of  Maxine  as  well. 
In  the  original  Broadway  production,  where  the  role  was  played 
by  Bette  Davis,  Maxine  had  been  a  genuine  man-eater,  a  woman 
who  was  lonely,  hard-bitten,  and  cruel.  Shannon  ending  up  with 
her  was  much  more  of  a  curse  than  a  blessing.  John,  however, 
felt  the  character,  especially  the  way  I  played  her,  was  warmer, 
more  human,  a  better  person  than  Tennessee's  original  ending 
allowed,  and  he  had  the  scene  rewritten  to  emphasize  the  point. 



Tennessee  was  never  happy  with  that,  but  anyone  seeing  the  film 
knows  that  John's  choice  was  the  only  one  that  fit. 

All  that  aside,  I've  never  been  really  happy  with  The  Night  of 
the  Iguana;  in  fact,  I  got  embarrassed  about  my  performance  the 
first  time  I  saw  it.  The  critics,  however,  must  have  been  looking 
at  a  different  picture.  "Ava  Gardner  is  absolutely  splendid,"  said 
The  New  Yorker.  "Ava  Gardner  all  but  runs  away  with  the  pic- 
ture," said  Life.  "Miss  Gardner  gives  the  performance  of  her  ca- 
reer," said  the  Hollywood  Reporter. 

Hell,  I  suppose  if  you  stick  around  long  enough  they  have  to 
say  something  nice  about  you. 



liming  The  Bible  wasn't  John  Huston's 
idea.  Big  as  he  thought,  even  he  couldn't 
come  up  with  a  picture  that  included  Adam 
and  Eve,  the  Tower  of  Babel,  Noah's  Ark,  Abraham  and  Sarah, 
not  to  mention  the  creation  of  the  whole  goddamn  world.  Only 
the  Italian  producer  Dino  De  Laurentiis  thought  big  enough  for 
that,  or  had  the  nerve  to  rent  a  sign  on  Broadway,  a  huge  thing 
that  extended  for  an  entire  city  block  and  grandly  announced 
that  "Dino  De  Laurentiis  has  reserved  this  space  to  announce  the 
most  important  movie  of  all  time." 

Dino's  ideas,  however,  didn't  always  pan  out  exactly  as  he'd 
planned  them.  He'd  originally  envisioned  two  six-hour  films, 
costing  a  total  of  ninety  million  dollars,  with  four,  maybe  five 
directors  assigned.  What  he  ended  up  with  was  one  normal-sized 
film  with  one  larger-than-life  director,  John  Huston,  And  once 
John  came  aboard,  another  of  Dino's  ideas,  that  opera  star  Maria 
Callas  would  play  Sarah,  also  got  the  heave-ho.  "You,"  John  said 
as  he  handed  me  the  script,  "will  be  playing  Sarah." 

I  looked  at  the  script.  It  was  written  by  Christopher  Fry,  a  fine 
playwright,  and  though  it  looked  great  on  the  page,  the  dialogue 
was  definitely  on  the  arty  side.  For  instance,  Sarah  had  lines  like, 
"Abram,  behold  now,  the  Lord  hath  restrained  me  from  bearing. 
I  pray  thee,  go  in  unto  my  maid  according  to  that  law  which 
says,  when  the  wife  is  barren,  her  maid  servant  may  bear  for  her. 
It  may  be  that  I  may  obtain  children  by  her."  Quite  a  mouthful. 
"John,  honey,"  I  said.  "I  can't  speak  lines  like  this.  They're  not 
my  style.  They're  too  contrived,  too  stagy." 



John  gave  me  one  of  his  slow,  cunning  smiles  and  said  softly, 
"Of  course  you  can,  darlin3,  of  course  you  can."  Maybe  that  hyp- 
nosis he  tried  on  me  twenty  years  before  was  finally  taking  effect, 
because  I  found  myself  agreeing  with  him. 

John  also  told  me  that  he  had  the  actor  who  was  going  to  play 
Abraham  all  picked  out.  It  was  someone  Fd  never  met,  George  C. 
Scott.  Now,  if  I  had  any  female  intuition  at  all,  the  mention  of 
that  name  should  have  set  off  every  internal  alarm  within  ear- 
shot. Because  the  trouble  that  Abraham  and  Sarah  were  having 
on  the  biblical  front  was  nothing  compared  to  the  storm  between 
George  and  me  that  was  about  to  break  behind  the  scenes. 

No  sooner  had  I  arrived  at  the  Grand  Hotel  in  Rome,  where 
the  filming  was  to  begin  in  the  summer  of  1964,  than  my  tele- 
phone rang.  It  was  John,  of  course,  saying,  "Ava,  darlin',  come 
down  and  meet  George."  I  liked  him  immediately.  He  was  over 
six  feet  tall,  broad-shouldered,  and  powerful,  with  a  broken  nose 
and  a  quick  smile.  And  he  couldn't  have  been  nicer. 

We  chatted  a  bit,  John  made  his  usual  jokes,  and  we  parted 
outside  his  door,  George  heading  down  the  corridor  one  way  and 
me  going  the  other  toward  the  elevator.  I  was  almost  there  when 
I  heard  him  call  my  name. 

"Ava,"  he  said.  "Why  don't  we  have  a  drink  and  dinner 

"Sure,"  I  said.  "Good  idea."  We're  going  to  be  working  to- 
gether, he's  a  nice  guy,  so  why  not  get  acquainted?  Famous  last 

To  make  a  long  story  short,  I  fell  for  George  and  he  fell  for  me, 
and  in  those  early  weeks  of  shooting,  we  saw  a  lot  of  each  other 
off  the  set.  George  seemed  highly  intelligent  and  civilized,  very 
gentle  but  with  a  slightly  sardonic  sense  of  humor,  which  suited 
me  fine.  He  knew  the  film  world  backward  and  forward,  and  he 
was  a  magnificent,  intense  actor  thrown  into  the  bargain. 

So  what  was  the  problem?  The  problem,  honey,  was  booze. 
We  both  drank  a  fair  amount,  but  when  I  drank  I  usually  got 
mellow  and  happy.  When  George  got  drunk  he  could  go  berserk 
in  a  way  that  was  quite  terrifying.  He  began  to  be  jealous  of  my 
friends — just  mentioning  Frank's  name,  for  instance,  infuriated 
him — and  though  he  was  still  attached  at  the  time,  he  began  to 
talk  about  our  getting  married. 

George's  outbursts  weren't  limited  to  our  time  off  the  set.  One 



day,  for  instance,  we  were  shooting  this  very  delicate  scene  where 
I  say  something  like,  "Go  into  the  tent  of  my  handmaiden,"  that 
sort  of  jazz.  George,  I  knew,  had  been  a  bit  pissed  all  day,  and 
suddenly  he  went  absolutely  bonkers  and  began  ripping  his  cos- 
tume off.  He  literally  flung  the  clothes  on  the  floor  and  stormed 
off  the  set  in  his  underwear.  Why?  God  only  knows. 

I  went  over  and  sat  down  next  to  John  and  looked  up  at  him 
for  some  direction.  The  son  of  a  bitch  hadn't  moved,  hadn't  even 
taken  the  cigar  out  of  his  mouth.  I  waited  awhile,  but  John  didn't 
say  a  word.  Finally,  I  couldn't  stand  the  strain  so  I  whispered, 
"John,  what  are  we  going  to  do?  We've  got  no  Abraham." 

And  John  gave  me  his  little  smile  and  said,  "It's  just  right  for 
the  scene,  honey.  If  we  can  get  him  back,  he'll  be  great." 

And,  by  God,  after  a  few  more  minutes  George  C.  strode  back 
in  again.  There  were  still  a  few  problems,  like  finding  a  costume 
to  replace  the  one  he'd  torn  to  shreds,  but  after  that  it  all  went 
quite  smoothly. 

All  of  this  came  to  a  climax  in  a  small  hotel  in  Avezzano,  a 
town  in  the  Abruzzi  mountains  where  we  did  some  exteriors.  As 
usual,  George  and  I  had  gone  out  to  dinner,  and  returning  to  the 
hotel  we'd  gone  back  to  his  room  for  a  nightcap.  George  had 
drunk  quite  a  lot  that  night,  and  after  another  two  or  three  I 
could  see  he  was  getting  into  one  of  his  rages*  He  began  to  argue 
with  me  and  I  decided  it  was  time  to  leave.  Fat  chance.  Suddenly, 
out  of  the  blue,  a  hand  smashed  across  my  face  and  punches  fell 
on  me  from  all  angles.  What  do  you  do?  Scream?  Faint?  Try 
reasoning?  I  tried  reasoning.  The  result  was  more  punches,  more 
accusations.  It  felt  like  hours  before  I  managed  to  get  out. 

Back  in  my  room,  the  remnant  of  a  party  was  going  on,  with 
Reenie  dancing  with  Peter  O'Toole,  who  was  cast  as  an  angel. 
One  look  at  my  face  and  the  party  stopped  abruptly.  Peter  tried 
to  comfort  me,  but  he  couldn't  really  help. 

The  next  morning,  I  took  my  swollen  and  bruised  face  and 
black  eye  in  to  the  makeup  man.  God,  I  was  a  mess.  He  took  one 
look  at  me  and  screamed,  "For  Christ's  sake,  who  did  this  to 
you?"  I  didn't  tell  him,  but  it  wasn't  too  hard  to  figure  out,  and 
within  a  few  minutes  most  of  the  crew  and  technicians  knew,  and 
they  were  simmering.  You  better  believe  the  atmosphere  on  the 
set  that  day  was  more  than  slightly  electric. 

Early  that  morning,  George  had  apologized  profusely.  He 



didn't  know  why  he  had  done  it,  why  it  had  happened.  It  was 
disgraceful,  he  was  ashamed  of  himself,  it  would  never  happen 
again.  Only  much  later  in  life  did  I  discover  that  this  kind  of 
abject,  heartbroken  apology  is  very  much  the  rule  from  the  sort 
of  men  who  beat  up  women. 

Still,  I  have  a  gut  feeling  that  if  I  hadn't  been  working  with 
John  Huston  and  his  crew  on  his  picture,  I  would  have  taken  off 
after  that  first  battering  from  George  and  never  seen  him — or  the 
film — again. 

But  I  didn't.  I  shared  scenes  with  George.  I  went  out  to  dinner 
with  George.  I  kept  up  appearances  with  George.  George  wanted 
to  marry  me.  I  had  no  intention  of  marrying  George — ever. 

John,  of  course,  was  very  much  aware  of  what  was  happening, 
and  I  think  he  took  some  precautions.  When  we  moved  on  to 
locations  in  Sicily,  I  noticed  three  very  tough-looking  guys  just 
hanging  around  the  set.  They  had  nothing  to  do  with  our  film 
crew,  they  were  just  there.  As  we  were  in  Sicily,  I  naturally 
thought,  I  never  knew  Mafiosi  were  so  interested  in  the  Bible,  but 
I  soon  forgot  about  them. 

Then  one  night  George  and  I  and  Reenie  had  dinner  at  a  res- 
taurant on  top  of  a  hill  in  Taormina.  We  took  our  seats  and,  lo 
and  behold,  those  three  tough  guys  showed  up  and  were  seated  at 
another  table  some  distance  from  ours. 

George  C.  had  had  a  few  drinks,  and  was  having  a  few  more, 
and  the  tension  was  increasing.  I  can't  remember  how  far  into  the 
meal  we'd  gotten  before  I  began  waving  to  the  waiter  for  the 
check  and  preparing  to  leave.  Because  George,  in  the  condition 
he  was  in,  couldn't  have  cared  less  about  whether  we  had  a  fight 
in  public  or  in  private. 

Outside,  it  was  dark  and  warm,  and  the  lights  from  the  restau- 
rant were  spilling  across  our  faces.  George  was  starting  to  get 
threatening,  and  I  was  frightened.  Then,  suddenly,  out  of  the 
darkness  that  trio  of  toughs  appeared  at  our  side.  Very  quietly. 
Very  swiftly.  Very  solidly.  One  took  George's  right  arm,  one  took 
his  left,  the  third  trailed  a  little  way  behind.  No  noise,  no  tug- 
ging, no  pushing.  And  no  fuss  from  George  as  he  was  led  away  to 
a  waiting  car  and  placed  inside. 

No  harm  came  to  George;  he  arrived  on  the  set  next  morning 
full  of  the  usual  apologies.  I  glanced  at  John  to  see  if  I  could  get 
the  slightest  confirmation  that  he  might  be  paying  the  local 



Mafiosi  a  few  bucks  to  make  certain  that  his  Sarah  arrived  in 
front  of  the  camera  with  her  face  in  one  piece.  If  he  was,  and  I 
think  he  was,  he  never  gave  it  away. 

When  The  Bible  wrapped,  I  flew  to  London  to  see  Robert 
Graves  at  Oxford  and  to  hear  him  give  a  public  lecture  in  his 
capacity  as  professor  of  poetry.  I  was  staying  at  the  Savoy  Hotel, 
and  who  should  show  up — on  business  of  his  own,  or  so  he 
said — but  the  man  himself,  George  C.  Would  I  have  dinner,  for 
old  time's  sake?  He  was  still  in  love  with  me.  Could  we  forget  the 
past,  or  at  least  have  dinner?  I  agreed.  London  seemed  pretty 
safe,  the  Savoy  even  safer. 

At  dinner  I  could  sense  that  familiar  tension  growing,  the  con- 
versation suddenly  beginning  to  slide  from  the  easy,  happy  famil- 
iarities to  terse  questioning.  The  number  of  drinks  increased.  I 
got  through  that  dinner  as  quickly  as  I  could,  found  a  taxi  back 
to  the  Savoy,  and  with  similar  speed  said  good  night  in  the  lobby 
and  shot  up  to  the  safety  of  my  suite. 

Suddenly  there  was  a  loud  banging  on  the  door.  "Tell  him  I'm 
not  here,"  I  said  to  Reenie.  "Say  anything.  Try  and  get  rid  of 

I  looked  around  for  a  place  to  hide.  My  bedroom?  Reenie's 
bedroom?  The  bathroom?  Shouldn't  a  lady's  toilet  be  inviolate?  I 
ran  into  it  and  locked  the  door.  I  heard  Reenie's  frantic  voice,  the 
crash  as  he  burst  through  the  door.  "Where  is  she?"  George 
screamed.  "I  know  she's  here." 

What  I  didn't  know  until  later  was  that  he  had  a  broken  bottle 
against  Reenie's  throat. 

"Which  bedroom  is  she  in?  ...  I'll  find  her."  The  voice  trailed 
away  as  he  searched  in  the  bedrooms.  Then  I  heard  Reenie's 
voice  at  the  bathroom  door.  "Miss  G.!  Miss  G.!" 

I  unlocked  it  and  pulled  her  inside.  Relocked  it  and  thought: 
What  the  hell  do  we  do?  Two  friends  were  staying  across  the 
corridor.  If  only  we  could  get  to  them,  they  could  ring  down  to 
the  desk.  Now  George  was  back  at  the  bathroom  door,  banging 
and  yelling.  And  then  we  saw  our  only  way  of  escape.  Above  the 
tub  on  the  corridor  side  there  was  a  transom  window  about  four 
feet  long  and  two  feet  high.  Fortunately,  it  opened  from  the  bot- 
tom. And  there  was  a  chair  in  the  bathroom.  Reenie  and  I  were 
both  pretty  trim.  I  can't  remember  who  went  first,  but  I  do  re- 
member we  got  through  the  opening  with  something  approaching 



the  speed  of  light.  We  took  refuge  with  our  friends  across  the 
corridor  and  rang  down  to  the  desk.  The  Savoy's  security  men 
were  up  almost  as  quickly  as  the  few  seconds  we  took  getting 
through  the  transom  window.  They  escorted  Mr.  George  C.  Scott 
back  to  his  own  room  and  left  him  there.  The  rage  and  the  noise 
he  made  as  he  smashed  his  own  apartment  to  pieces  brought  the 
security  men  back  again  in  a  hurry,  and  then  the  British  police. 
George  spent  the  night  in  a  London  cell  and  was  charged  and 
brought  before  the  magistrate  next  morning.  The  usual  fine  for 
drunk  and  disorderly  was  ten  shillings.  No  doubt  he  settled  the 
damage  to  the  Savoy's  property  separately. 

I  thought  I  had  said  good-bye  to  George  C.  Scott  forever.  But 
no.  Back  in  Los  Angeles  visiting  Bappie  and  my  friends,  I  was 
staying  at  one  of  the  bungalows  near  the  pool  at  the  luxurious 
Beverly  Hills  Hotel.  I  suppose  it  must  have  been  around  one  A.M. 
when  someone  smashed  his  fist  through  the  back  door,  breaking 
the  screen  and  the  glass,  and  entered  the  bungalow.  In  a  flash,  I 
knew  who  it  was,  and  when  he  entered  my  room  I  was  terrified 
out  of  my  mind  at  the  sight  of  this  huge,  completely  drunk,  al- 
most insane  man.  He  loved  me,  he  said,  he  wanted  to  marry  me. 
Why  wouldn't  I  marry  him?  If  he  couldn't  have  me,  he  was  going 
to  kill  me.  And  he  sideswiped  me  across  the  face  with  such  force 
it  knocked  me  to  the  floor.  Then  came  more  blows,  more  anger, 
more  threats. 

I  was  stretched  out  on  the  floor,  with  George  astride  me.  I 
can't  remember  if  he  had  any  more  drinks,  but  I  think  he  must 
have,  because  he  smashed  bottles  to  get  a  weapon  to  threaten  me 
with.  He  was  kneeling  across  me,  waving  the  jagged  edges  of 
glass  in  front  of  my  face  with  one  hand  and  hitting  me  with  the 
other.  Telling  me  he  loved  me,  and  smashing  a  fist  into  my  eye. 
"Marry  me,  do  you  hear  what  Fm  saying?",  followed  by  another 
blow.  And  all  the  time  I  was  thinking:  Oh,  my  God.  If  his  mind 
twists  a  little  bit  more  he'll  thrust  this  broken  bottle  into  my  face 
or  my  throat.  With  an  enormous  effort  I  held  back  the  terror  and 
the  screams  that  were  rising  inside  me.  This  was  the  real  meaning 
of  being  scared  to  death. 

I  knew  my  only  hope  was  being  sweet  and  understanding. 
"George,  darling,"  I  managed  to  squeeze  out,  in  a  voice  as  soft 
and  appealing  as  I  could  make  it.  "You're  in  a  terrible  state.  Let 
me  call  a  doctor  and  have  him  come  over." 



No  way.  He  wouldn't  even  listen.  And  he  wouldn't  leave.  This 
went  on  for  hours. 

Suddenly,  and  by  this  time  it  was  early  in  the  morning,  the 
phone  began  to  ring.  "If  you  try  and  answer  that,"  he  hissed,  "I'll 
kill  you." 

"George,"  I  said.  "People  know  that  I'm  here.  If  I  don't  an- 
swer, they'll  send  someone  to  find  out  why." 

That  appeared  to  make  sense  to  him.  He  let  me  get  up,  but  he 
stood  behind  me  and  said,  "Be  careful.  One  wrong  word  and  I'll 
kill  you." 

I  answered  the  phone.  It  was  Veronique,  Greg  Peck's  wife  and 
a  dear  friend.  I  knew  with  absolute  certainty  that  if  I  said  any- 
thing, George  would  carry  out  his  threat.  But  how  could  I  let  her 
know  what  was  happening?  Could  I  "act"  into  the  phone  to  give 
her  some  idea  of  my  terror?  Veronique  did  not  get  the  message.  I 
replaced  the  telephone  in  its  cradle.  And  I  went  on  talking  in  my 
calmest  voice  to  George. 

"Listen,  honey,  you're  in  bad  shape.  You  have  to  have  a  doc- 
tor. Let  me  call  Bill  Smith — he's  a  great  friend,  a  good  doctor. 
You  don't  have  to  behave  like  this." 

I  kept  on  that  theme.  Oh,  God,  it  was  the  most  realistic  piece 
of  acting  I've  ever  done  in  my  life.  Finally,  I  got  through.  George 
said,  "Okay." 

Slowly  I  picked  up  the  phone.  Thank  God,  Bill  was  up.  I  told 
him  where  I  was.  "Please  hurry.  It's  very  urgent." 

Bill  caught  the  urgency  all  right,  and  was  around  in  a  few  min- 
utes. Oh,  Jesus,  I  have  never  been  happier  to  see  a  man  in  my  life. 
It  was  growing  light  outside,  but  my  curtains  were  still  drawn 
and  inside  it  was  dim  and  dark.  I  said,  "Bill,  my  friend  here  is  in 
a  terrible  state.  Can  you  help  him  with  a  sedative?" 

Bill,  of  course,  didn't  know  what  the  hell  was  going  on,  but  he 
quickly  examined  George  and  gave  him  a  rapid  shot.  "That 
should  do  it,"  he  said  as  he  closed  his  bag  and  moved  back  to- 
ward the  door.  Oh,  my  God,  I  thought,  if  he  leaves  me  ...  and  I 
can't  scream  out  even  now. 

But  I  went  with  him  to  the  door,  and  as  he  turned  back  to  say 
good-bye  I  put  my  face  out  so  that  he  could  see  it,  and  I  saw  his 
face  react  with  absolute  disbelief  and  horror.  Then  he  was  gone. 

Inside,  the  sedative  was  beginning  to  work.  George  was  sitting 
there,  blank,  not  saying  anything.  Bill  had  gone  straight  to  the 



hotel  phone  and  called  Bappie.  God  knows  how  long  it  took  her 
to  get  to  the  bungalow.  I  was  still  dazed,  shocked  into  silence  by 
this  confrontation.  Bappie  came  in,  saw  my  face — I  later  found 
out  I  had  a  detached  retina  in  one  eye  and  a  badly  bruised  right 
cheekbone.  She  rushed  to  the  fireplace  to  get  a  huge  poker.  I  re- 
strained her,  whispering  urgently,  "Bappie,  stop,  stop  .  .  .  he'll 
kill  us  both." 

A  minute  later,  without  a  word,  George  walked  out  the  way 
he'd  come  in,  through  the  smashed  back  door.  I  have  never  seen 
him  since. 

I  was  sorry  for  George  then,  and  I'm  sorry  for  George  now.  I 
understand  he's  completely  under  control  these  days,  but,  my 
God,  the  fear  he  could  impart  in  those  terrible  rages. 

These  days  the  whole  world  knows  about  the  type  of  man  who 
abuses  and  batters  women.  But  then  it  was  hushed  up,  something 
you  didn't  talk  about.  Now,  thank  God,  it  is,  because  I  can  tell 
you  that  those  few  hours  with  George  C.  Scott  were  the  most 
terrifying  of  my  life.  Even  today,  if  I  so  much  as  see  him  on  tele- 
vision, I  start  to  shake  all  over  again  and  have  to  turn  the  set  off. 



va  was  like  the  most  fantastic  relative, 
because  she  didn't  make  you  pay  a  price 
for  knowing  her.  She  was  the  great  older 
sister  who  just  adores  you.  And  spoils  you.  Her  loyalty  was  dev- 
astating. In  fact,  it  could  be  embarrassing.  Because  if  she  was 
your  friend,  she  would  kill  for  you,  and  sometimes  you  didn't 
want  her  to.  She  believed  in  the  good  decent  things,  she  really 
did.  And  to  the  best  of  her  ability,  she  lived  that  way. 

Ava  was  an  extraordinary  woman  because  she  never  copped  a 
plea.  She  was  completely  who  she  was  and  what  she  was,  and  she 
never  made  an  excuse  about  it.  Because  she  was  volatile  and  hon- 
est, if  somebody  hurt  her  or  took  advantage  of  her,  she'd  just  cut 
them  to  ribbons.  But  if  she  was  wrong,  if  she'd  done  an  injustice, 
her  agony  was  terrible,  her  remorse  phenomenal,  and  she  would 
do  everything  to  repair  the  damage. 

I  first  met  Ava  in  1942,  at  a  war  bond  rally  in  Pershing  Square 
in  Los  Angeles.  She  was  twenty  and  I  was  thirteen  and  I  got  her 
autograph:  what  she  signed  was  "Mrs.  Mickey  Rooney."  She  was 
simply  and  in  every  way  one  of  the  most  beautiful  girls  that  one 
had  ever  seen  in  one's  life.  Her  body  was  absolutely  extraordi- 
nary; the  way  all  her  facial  features  were  placed  was  perfect;  she 
was  classically  beautiful.  And  her  spirit  was  quite  adorable.  It's 
very  strange  to  see  that  sort  of  tenderness  radiating  out  of  some- 
body that  exquisitely  beautiful. 

We  didn't  become  tremendously  close  friends  until  she  was  in 
her  early  forties,  by  which  time  the  slings  and  arrows  had  both 



taken  their  toll  and  strengthened  her.  By  the  time  I  knew  her,  she 
was  this  gouache  of  remarkable  qualities  that  I  found  to  be 
deeply  appealing,  heartbreakingly  moving.  She  was  a  survivor, 
but  she  had  no  armor  for  insult.  She  wasn't  hard— there  wasn't  a 
hard  bone  in  that  woman's  body.  And  she  was  one  of  the  very 
few  people  I've  known  who  don't  have  a  shred  of  malice.  Yet  she 
could  be  a  holy  terror  and  hysterically  funny  if  she  was  on  a  tear, 
if  she  took  umbrage  at  something.  But  she  didn't  harbor  resent- 
ments, and  she  would  constantly  be  about  repairing  what  she  felt 
might  have  been  a  hurt.  She  was  a  study  in  contradictions. 

The  highly  irritating  thing -about  Ava,  of  course,  was  that  she 
had  no  regard  for  her  intellectual  capacity  or  her  talent.  She  was 
a  wonderful  actress  and  she  never  believed  it.  If  you  told  her  that, 
or  if  you  told  her  how  beautiful  she  was,  she'd  get  very  uncom- 
fortable and  virtually  begin  to  shake.  She  didn't  know  what  to  do 
with  the  information;  it  unnerved  her. 

Ava  was  always  alive.  Even  in  the  depths  of  depression  or  an- 
guish, she  was  terribly  alive.  And  she  could  get  heartbreakingly 
depressed.  There  were  times  when  she  couldn't  see  people,  times 
when  she  was  so  miserable,  when  life  was  so  black  for  her.  It 
couldn't  have  been  easy  for  anybody  to  have  been  witness  to  the 
depths  of  her  unhappiness  or  self-loathing.  She  didn't  like  herself. 

And  so  everyone  felt  wildly  protective  about  Ava,  and  therein, 
of  course,  lies  madness.  The  vulnerability  was  part  of  her  great 
appeal.  Everybody  felt  that  yes,  they  could  bring  her  some  solace 
or  help  for  whatever  this  bottomless  well  of  unhappiness  in  her 
was.  Well,  of  course,  you  can't  But  Ava  didn't  take  advantage  of 
that;  she  wasn't  looking  for  you  to  be  a  nurse.  Some  people  eat 
you  up  with  that,  but  Ava  wasn't  inclined  that  way.  She  was  a 
loner.  Like  a  bear,  she  would  go  off  somewhere  and  hibernate. 

Yet  she  was  a  very  passionate  woman  about  things  that  she 
liked  doing.  For  instance,  I  live  right  across  the  street  from  Gene 
Autry  and  that  really  thrilled  her. 

"I've  got  to  go  over  and  see  him,"  she  said. 

"You  can't,"  I  said.  "It's  ten  o'clock  at  night." 

"But  he  was  my  mother's  favorite  actor." 

Well,  it  was  hysterical.  Who's  going  to  believe  that  Ava 
Gardner  was  down  there  on  Autry's  not-so-mini  estate,  throwing 
pebbles  at  his  windows  and  saying,  "Mr.  Autry,  my  name's  Ava 
Gardner  ..."  I  don't  think  he  was  even  there.  Her  responses  to 



things  were  so  childlike,  it  was  so  sweet.  She  was  totally  immedi- 
ate. She  had  no  pretensions,  none  whatever. 

In  1969,  we  made  a  movie  together,  I  directed  her  in  The 
Ballad  of  Tarn  Lin.  She  hadn't  made  a  film  in  a  couple  of  years,  it 
was  a  very  large  part,  and  she  was  very  nervous.  It  was  not  a 
successful  movie,  by  any  manner  of  means,  but  her  performance 
is  remarkable  and  dead-on. 

The  film  was  based  on  a  Scottish  border  ballad  by  Robert 
Burns  that  is  about  a  bitch-goddess  who  walks  the  earth  in  per- 
petuity, refurbishing  her  godhead  with  the  sacrifices  of  young 
people.  She  takes  them  and  she  destroys  their  lives;  she's  a  mag- 
net for  them  and  she  sucks  them  dry.  And  the  ultimate  triumph 
in  the  piece  is  that  a  young  man  is  saved  by  the  true  love  of  a 
pure  young  girl. 

In  modern  terms,  the  film  was  about  this  very  rich,  opulent, 
seductive,  enchanting  woman  who  at  base  was  a  killer  of 
creativity  and  productivity.  It's  a  piece  that  could  only  be  played 
by  a  creature  who,  when  coming  on  from  the  wings,  carried  with 
her  glamour,  maturity,  and  mystery.  Vivien  Leigh  could've 
played  her,  but  she  was  dead.  Probably  Jeanne  Moreau  could've 
done  it.  But  Ava  was  unique  because  she  was  an  imperial  creature 
with  a  great  peasant  streak,  which  is  a  miraculous  combination 
to  find.  Her  ability  to  scrub  the  kitchen  floor,  you  know,  was 
always  there.  Hers  was  the  most  unpretentious  elegance  I  ever 

Ava  was  one  of  the  most  perfect  screen  actresses  I've  ever  en- 
countered because  she  had  a  childlike  concentration,  which  is 
wildly  important.  It's  one  of  the  major  things  that  a  film  actor  or 
actress  should  have,  because  immediacy  is  tremendously  impor- 
tant to  hold.  I  found  that  when  you  were  working  with  her  you 
should  really  never  have  more  than  three  takes.  Because  she 
really  did  it. 

Watching  her  act  was  a  fascinating  thing  to  me — I  was  often 
stunned.  There  was  one  time  when  she  had  to  take  a  dagger,  stick 
it  into  a  desk,  and  say  something  like,  "I  will  not  die."  And  when 
she  said  it,  her  eyes  in  that  moment  just  filled  with  blood.  It  was 
incredible.  She  didn't  have  acting  craft,  but  she  had  this  immedi- 
ate instinct.  So  in  a  sense  perhaps  the  toll  was  larger  for  her  than 
somebody  who  had  craft  at  their  fingertips.  Because  she  had  to 
really  completely  do  it  in  that  moment. 



There  were  a  lot  of  young  people  age  eighteen  to  twenty-five  in 
the  cast  of  Tarn  Lin,  and  though  at  first  Ava  was  afraid  to  meet 
them,  within  an  instant  she  became  absolutely  devoted  to  them. 
There  was  one  moment  in  the  film  where  twelve  or  thirteen  of 
them  were  playing  games  on  the  floor  and  she  had  to  walk  right 
through,  up  this  huge  staircase,  turn  around  on  a  platform,  and 
just  lace  into  them,  cut  them  to  ribbons,  and  throw  them  out. 

Ava  was  dressed  in  an  evening  gown — she  looked  incredible — 
and  everything  went  fine  until  she  turned  around  on  the  staircase 
and  this  really  awful  performance  came  out.  It  was  like  the  motor 
ran  out  the  moment  she  turned  around  and  looked  at  them.  We 
rehearsed  it  two  or  three  times  and  I  said,  "What's  wrong,  Ava 

"Honey,  I  can't  do  this,"  she  said. 


"Those  are  my  babies.  I  can't  tell  them  off.  I  love  them." 

I  began  laughing  and  I  said,  "Why  don't  you  just  pretend  it's 
five  o'clock  in  the  morning  in  Madrid,  and  you  want  to  get  those 
musicians  out  of  the  room."  She  came  in  and  boom!  did  it.  She 
longed  for  good  direction.  Immediately  she'd  connect,  and  imme- 
diately she  would  produce. 

Ava's  beauty  finally  became  double-edged.  In  the  first  place, 
when  you  look  in  the  mirror,  you're  not  seeing  the  image  that 
other  people  see,  so  you  don't  appreciate  the  fact  of  your  beauty. 
But  if  you  are  continually  told  that  you  are  beautiful,  even  if  you 
can't  really  understand  that,  nevertheless  you  are  still  custodian 
of  it,  you  are  the  keeper  of  that  beauty.  So  you've  got  a  problem, 
because  that's  schizophrenic. 

We  had  to  do  a  lighting  test  of  her  for  Tarn  Lin  and  she  was 
very  nervous,  very  skittish,  so  I  told  her  I'd  be  there  with  her.  We 
went  onto  this  dark  soundstage,  with  just  a  work  light,  and  she 
sat  on  a  stool.  And  I  sat  there  beside  her  talking  very,  very  quietly 
as  Billy  Williams,  our  cinematographer,  began  to  light. 

And  as  the  light  slowly  came  on,  it  was  like  a  painting  happen- 
ing. It  was  the  first  time  in  years  I'd  seen  her  with  all  the  war 
paint  on,  and  I  was  devastated. 

"Good  God,  you  really  are  gorgeous,"  I  said. 

"No,  honey,  no,  no,  no,"  she  said  in  this  very  soft  voice  she 

"Yes,  you  are.  You  are  really  some  beautiful  thing." 



"No,  I  used  to  be." 

"What  do  you  mean?  You  are." 

"No,  honey.  When  I  was  young,  I  was  beautiful.  When  I 
would  work  all  day  and  then  stay  out  all  night,  and  then  come  to 
work  the  next  day  and  still  look  okay.  And  then  stay  out  the  next 
night,  and  come  to  work  the  next  day.  Now,  then  I  was  beau- 



hen  I  was  in  Mexico  in  1963  doing  a 
location  piece  on  The  Night  of  the 
Iguana  for  Cosmopolitan,  the  unit  pub- 
licist warned  me  about  Ava.  "Everybody  will  talk  to  you,"  he 
said.  "John  Huston  will  talk  to  you.  Burton  will  talk  to  you, 
Deborah  Kerr  will  talk  to  you.  But  you  must  not  approach  Miss 
Gardner.  She  does  not  like  the  press;  in  fact,  she  wanted  a  closed 
set,  which  she  didn't  get.  But  we  have  promised  her  that  she  will 
not  be  interviewed.  So  you  must  not  approach  her." 

After  I'd  been  there  a  couple  of  days,  we  were  all  at  the  bar  at 
the  location  one  afternoon  and  somebody  said,  "Ava,  do  you 
want  a  ride  back  to  town  on  my  boat?" 

"No  thanks,"  she  said.  "I'm  going  to  water-ski  back."  And  she 
looked  around  and  said,  "Anybody  want  to  come  with  me?" 

"I'll  go,"  I  said. 

And  she  said,  "Fine." 

When  I  was  on  the  skis,  I  could  tell  she  was  telling  the  boat 
boys  to  give  me  a  hard  time.  They'd  slow  down  and  practically 
stop  and  I'd  sink  down  into  the  water.  She  was  terrible — she  was 
trying  to  knock  me  off.  She  did  not  succeed.  And  many,  many 
boozy  hours  later,  dancing  and  listening  to  Frank  Sinatra  records 
at  her  house  and  getting  pissed  drunk,  we  were  the  best  of 

I  went  home  after  I  finished  my  work,  and  she  began  telephon- 


A  VA:    MY  STORY 

ing.  From  Los  Angeles,  from  Mexico,  from  the  Main  Chance 
Farm  in  Arizona,  saying  she  wanted  to  marry  me.  At  the  time  I 
was  happily  married,  and  I  kept  trying  to  explain  that  to  Ava. 
"Well,  that  doesn't  matter,"  she'd  say.  "I  want  to  marry  you. 
We'll  worry  about  your  wife  later."  I  think  she  probably  saw  me 
as  a  reasonably  stable  and  maybe  civilized  person  who  could 
bring  a  little  of  that  stability  into  her  life,  something  she  had 
never  really  been  able  to  find. 

The  first  impression  you  had  of  Ava  was  that  she  was  so  beau- 
tiful. She  would  do  her  hair  with  toothpicks  from  the  olives  in 
martinis  and  it  would  look  great.  She  could  walk  out  of  a  hotel 
without  makeup,  wearing  flats,  one  of  those  kilt-type  skirts  with 
a  big  safety  pin  in  it  and  a  simple  peasant  blouse  and  she  looked 
gorgeous.  She  had  an  ability  to  find  the  key  light,  the  one  that 
made  her  look  the  best.  She  even  told  me  once,  "When  Fm  in  a 
room,  I  know  how  to  find  that  light."  My  wife  and  I  were  in 
Madrid  with  her  once,  and  the  sun  hit  her  face  just  so,  and  we 
both  said  simultaneously,  "Ava,  you  are  too  beautiful."  And  she 
said,  "Oh,  shit,  Fm  sick  of  hearing  that." 

Yet  by  the  time  I  met  her,  I  think  that  Ava  was  a  very  damaged 
woman,  badly  bruised  by  the  awful,  macho  people  in  the  indus- 
try. She  felt  injured  by  MGM,  she  hated  Mr.  Mayer,  she  was 
always  very  bitter.  She  just  wasn't  tough  enough  to  deal  with  it. 
Because  it's  a  rotten  business. 

Frank  Sinatra  was  different.  They  stayed  very,  very  close. 
Every  time  Fd  be  with  her,  he  would  call  at  least  once.  And  she 
would  go  up  into  her  bedroom,  close  the  door,  and  talk  for  half 
an  hour.  The  only  time  I  saw  them  together,  she  was  staying  at 
his  suite  at  the  Waldorf  Towers.  He  was  looking  up  an  address  in 
the  phone  book  and  he  couldn't  read  it  without  his  glasses,  which 
he  didn't  have.  And  Ava,  who  had  these  funny  little  Ben  Frank- 
lin—type half-glasses,  said,  "Here,  try  mine."  And  he  put  them  on 
and  he  said,  "Hey,  they  work  for  me!  That's  another  reason  why 
you  and  I  should  get  back  together."  Which  I  thought  was  kind 
of  cute. 

When  he  left,  I  said,  "Why  don't  you  get  back  together?"  And 
she  said,  "We'd  be  at  each  other's  throats  in  five  minutes."  It  was 
all  about  jealousy.  Sinatra  liked  to  be  recognized,  and  if  a  pretty 
girl  came  up  and  spoke  to  him,  Ava  would  get  furious.  And  Ava's 
eyes  liked  to  travel  around  the  room;  she'd  fix  on  this  one  and 



that  one,  and  the  next  thing  you'd  know  the  person  would  be 
over  at  the  table  and  Frank  would  get  furious.  So  they  were  al- 
ways jealous  of  each  other,  just  like  teenagers. 

George  C.  Scott  was  another  story.  He  beat  Ava  up  on  several 
occasions.  I  was  staying  in  her  house  in  Madrid  while  she  was  in 
Rome  doing  The  Bible  with  him  and  when  she  came  back,  her 
arm  was  in  a  sling  and  God,  she  looked  like  hell.  He'd  broken  a 
collar  bone,  yanked  out  a  whole  hunk  of  her  hair,  and  she  had 
double  vision  in  both  eyes. 

"How  can  you  stand  this  guy?"  I  said. 

"Oh,  I've  fallen  for  him,59  she  said.  "I've  fallen  for  him." 

The  next  thing  I  knew,  Scott  showed  up  in  Madrid  and  I  was 
invited  for  drinks  in  her  apartment.  I  walked  in  and  George's  face 
looked  like  raw  hamburger,  sort  of  oozing  and  awful.  Ava  pulled 
me  aside  into  the  kitchen  and  she  said,  "You  see  George's  face?" 

"My  God,  what  happened?" 

"Last  night  he  got  drunk,  he  had  a  fire  going  in  the  fireplace, 
and  he  threw  himself  face-first  into  the  live  coals.  I  had  to  pull 
him  out." 

Ava  did  come  from  an  environment,  kind  of  redneck,  where 
men  beat  up  women.  If  you  weren't  happy  with  what  your  wife 
or  your  girlfriend  did,  you  let  her  have  it,  you  slammed  her 
across  the  face.  So  I  think  she  thought  that  was  part  of  the  way 
men  and  women  interact.  Or  at  least  it  wasn't  strange  to  her. 
Also,  she  had  a  tendency  toward  liking  violence.  She  obviously 
liked  bullfighters,  and  she  liked  the  bullfight  itself,  its  kind  of 
physical  excitement. 

Ava  really  liked  Spain;  she  kept  saying  it  was  her  spiritual 
home.  But  after  she'd  been  there  for  a  dozen  years  or  so,  the 
Spanish  government  suddenly  claimed  that  she  owed  them  about 
a  million  dollars  in  taxes. 

Morgan  Maree  was  Ava's  business  manager,  and  either  he  or 
someone  from  his  office  came  flying  over  with  all  sorts  of  receipts 
to  help  her  with  this  crisis.  They  showed  evidence  of  the  Amer- 
ican dollars  that  she'd  spent  over  there.  They  said  she'd  been  a 
big  attraction  for  Madrid  and  for  Spain,  that  the  publicity  she  got 
when  she'd  show  up  at  the  bullfights  was  good  for  tourism.  Their 
argument  was  that  she  had  done  a  lot  for  Spain,  and  therefore 
Spain  should  treat  her  a  little  better. 

Now  in  Spain,  protocol  says  that  at  a  meeting  you  don't  get 



down  to  business  right  away.  First  it's  "How  is  your  daughter? 
How  is  your  niece?  How  is  your  ailing  Aunt  Louisa?"  You  talk 
family  and  then  after  about  fifteen  minutes  of  that,  you  get  down 
to  business. 

A  big  meeting  was  set  up  between  Ava,  the  person  from  Mor- 
gan Maree,  and  Seiior  Manuel  Fraga  Iribarne,  who  was  Franco's 
Minister  of  Tourism  and  the  Police,  which  I  always  thought  was 
a  marvelous  combination.  And  Ava,  who  always  called  him 
Senor  Bragas,  which  means  underpants  in  Spanish,  was  getting 
very  impatient  with  this  backing  and  filling. 

Finally,  Iribarne  said,  "Ah,  Senorita  Gardner,  yes,  we  are  now 
here  to  discuss  your  indebtedness  to  the  Spanish  government  of 
ten  thousand  dollars." 

"What  the  fuck?"  she  shouted.  "I  thought  it  was  a  million!" 

"You're  quite  right.  Miss  Gardner,"  Iribarne  replied.  "It  is  a 
million  dollars." 

She  had  been  offered  a  way  out  and  she  blew  it.  After  that 
explosion,  she  had  to  move  to  London.  I  don't  think  she  could 
ever  have  gone  back  to  Spain.  They  would  have  jumped  her  for 
the  taxes. 

One  of  Ava's  problems  was  that  she  had  been  told  all  along 
that  she  didn't  have  to  have  any  talent.  On  Night  of  the  Iguana,  I 
heard  Ava  ask  John  Huston  about  her  character.  "Now,  is  Max- 
ine  in  love  with  Shannon,  or  what?  What  do  you  think  she's  feel- 
ing?" And  though  they  talk  about  what  a  wonderful  director 
John  Huston  was,  all  he  said  was,  "Don't  worry,  sweetheart.  Just 
stand  there  and  look  beautiful.  That's  all  you  have  to  do."  I  think 
she'd  been  told  that  so  often  that  she  didn't  think  she  had  any 
acting  talent. 

The  minute  Ava  got  to  a  party,  she'd  say,  "Where's  the  bar? 
Where's  the  bar?  Where's  the  booze?"  And  she'd  have  a  drink 
right  away.  She  always  talked  about  her  shyness,  she  blamed  the 
drinking  on  the  shyness,  but  I  think  she  suffered  from  low  self- 
esteem  that  came  from  having  been  told  that  she  didn't  have  any 
talent.  "Honey,  you  just  stand  there  and  be  beautiful." 

That's  why,  when  the  looks  really  went,  in  her  last  seven  or 
eight  years,  Ava  became  very  reclusive.  She  wouldn't  go  out. 
When  I'd  go  to  see  her  in  London,  I'd  try  to  make  her  get  dressed 
up  and  go  out,  but  she  wouldn't  leave  the  apartment.  I  think  she 
felt  that  without  her  looks  she  was  a  nothing.  Except  a  mind.  She 



always  knew  that  she  was  smart,  but  I  don't  think  she  thought 
she  had  any  real  ability. 

Also,  in  the  forties  and  fifties  when  Ava  was  getting  started,  it 
was  considered  rather  chic  to  get  drunk;  she  grew  up  in  a  Holly- 
wood that  expected  people  to  get  drunk.  She'd  go  for  long  peri- 
ods and  not  have  anything  to  drink  at  all,  but  when  she  would 
start  drinking,  she  wouldn't  stop  until  she  went  off  to  her  room 
and  closed  the  door.  Once  at  her  house  in  Madrid,  she  cooked 
this  whole  elaborate  Thanksgiving  dinner.  She  was  almost  child- 
like, setting  the  table,  getting  the  turkey  out,  and  the  dressing  and 
the  sweet  potatoes.  But  by  the  time  we  all  sat  down  at  the  table 
she  wasn't  able  to  join  us. 

When  Ava  was  drinking,  it  was  exciting,  I  must  say,  because 
you  never  knew  what  was  going  to  happen.  She  had  the  capacity 
of  an  ox,  and  the  energy.  She  never  seemed  to  get  tired.  Some- 
times she  would  be  almost  incoherent,  you  wouldn't  know  what 
she  was  talking  about,  but  she  wasn't  about  to  fold  her  tent.  And 
she'd  get  very  suspicious.  She'd  point  to  my  watch,  for  example, 
and  say,  "That's  a  tape  recorder,  isn't  it?" 

"No,  it  isn't,  honey,  it  really  isn't." 

"Take  off  that  watch!" 

So  I'd  have  to  put  the  watch  way  over  on  the  other  side  of  the 

One  night  in  New  York  we  started  out  with  rnai  tai's  and  din- 
ner at  Trader  Vic's.  Then  we  went  to  some  little  bar  on  West 
Forty-fourth  Street  that  was  a  favorite  of  Frank's  where  every- 
body knew  her  and  fussed  over  her.  At  this  point  it  was  well  after 
midnight  and  she  decided  she  was  hungry  again.  She  was  a  great 
steak  eater,  so  we  went  to  a  steakhouse  on  Third  Avenue  called 
Christo's  where  the  owner,  who'd  heard  she  was  in  town,  had 
reserved  a  bottle  of  aged  Anejo  tequila  just  for  her. 

Of  course  we  had  more  drinks  there,  and  then  she  said, 
"Damn,  I  promised  Betty  Sicre"  (who  was  a  great  friend  of  hers 
from  Spain)  "that  I  would  get  together  with  her  son  Ricardo, 
who's  at  Princeton.  I  haven't  done  it  and  I  really  feel  awful.  I 
really  should  try  to  see  little  Ricardo." 

Having  had  several  drinks  myself,  I  said,  "Hell,  let's  take  a  taxi 
and  go  down  to  Princeton." 

"Wonderful  idea,"  she  said.  "That's  a  great  idea." 

So  we  went  out  and  got  a  taxi,  Ava  dressed  as  the  movie  star 



with  a  long  dress  and  a  mink  coat.  The  driver  was  delighted  to 
take  us  the  sixty-five  miles  to  Princeton.  Ava  opened  the  tequila 
in  the  back  of  the  cab,  and  she  and  I  passed  the  bottle  back  and 
forth  during  the  trip. 

We  got  to  Princeton  around  seven  o'clock  in  the  morning  and 
Ava  wouldn't  let  go  of  the  tequila  bottle.  Her  friend  had  given  it 
to  her  and  therefore  she  was  not  going  to  leave  it  in  the  taxi.  I 
kept  saying,  "Can't  we  put  it  in  the  back  of  the  cab?"  and  the 
answer  was  always,  "No,  I  have  to  carry  it  with  me." 

We  got  on  the  campus  and  I  said,  "Where  does  little  Ricardo 
live?  What's  his  dormitory?"  Well,  she  had  no  idea.  "We'll  just 
go  up  and  down  the  streets  here  and  we'll  ask  people."  So,  as  the 
kids  were  headed  toward  their  first  classes  of  the  morning,  here 
was  Ava  Gardner  in  a  long  gown  jumping  out  of  this  cab  and 
saying,  "Do  you  know  my  friend  Ricardo  Sicre?"  Nobody  did. 

Soon  the  word  spread  across  Princeton  that  Ava  Gardner, 
clutching  a  bottle  of  tequila,  was  in  a  New  York  taxi  with  some 
unknown  person  cruising  up  and  down  the  campus.  And  a  little 
band  of  kids  began  following  the  cab,  running  after  us  and  shout- 
ing, "Ava,  Ava." 

We  stopped  in  front  of  a  dormitory  and  she  jumped  out — she 
had  these  very  quick  little  steps  when  she  ran  and  it  was  awfully 
hard  to  keep  up  with  her — and  ran  into  the  entrance  hall  saying, 
"Ricardo!  Ricardo!  Where  are  you?"  No  sign  of  Ricardo. 

"Well,"  she  said,  "well  just  have  to  go  to  the  top." 

"What  do  you  mean?" 

"Who's  the  president  of  this  university,  anyway?" 

"His  name  happens  to  be  Robert  F.  Goheen,  I  happen  to  know 

So  she  said  to  the  driver,  "Take  us  to  the  president's  house." 

At  this  point,  it's  about  a  quarter  past  eight  in  the  morning. 
We  pull  up  at  the  president's  house,  which  as  I  recall  was  a 
stately  white  Georgian  mansion.  And  Ava,  clutching  the  bottle  of 
tequila,  starts  to  jump  out  of  the  cab. 

"Ava,  let's  think  about  this  now,  let's  think  about  this  very, 
very  carefully,"  I  said.  "You're  very  fond  of  your  friend  Ricardo 
and  you're  very  fond  of  his  parents.  You,  on  the  other  hand,  are 
Ava  Gardner,  and  you  have  had,  uh,  a  little  bit  to  drink  tonight. 
I'm  not  arguing  with  you  about  the  bottle  of  tequila  that  has  to 
be  under  your  arm,  but  you  are  not  really  dressed  for  calling  on 



the  president  of  Princeton  University,  who's  probably  in  there 
now  in  his  bathrobe  having  breakfast  with  his  wife.  I  have  a  terri- 
ble feeling  that  if  you  barge  into  the  president's  house  at  this 
point  in  the  morning,  you  may  have  little  Ricardo  bounced  right 
out  of  this  college." 

"Yeah,  I  guess  you're  right,"  she  said. 

So  we  get  back  in  the  cab  and  head  to  New  York.  We  stopped 
at  a  Howard  Johnson's  on  the  Turnpike  and  had  some  breakfast. 
We  got  back  into  the  cab  and  were  almost  to  the  Lincoln  Tunnel 
when  Ava  said,  "Jesus  Christ!  It's  Yale!" 



uch  as  I  appreciated  having  a  real  home 
at  La  Bruja,  living  there  made  me  feel 
too  cut  off  from  the  center  of  things.  It 
was  Madrid  I  really  loved.  The  damn  place  had  lifel  The  narrow 
streets  were  full  of  old  bars  with  tapas  on  the  counters  and  hams 
hanging  from  the  rafters,  places  that  rang  with  the  sounds  of 
guitars,  castanets,  and  flamenco  dancing.  If  you  knew  your  way 
around,  the  nights  went  on  forever. 

So  I  sold  La  Bruja  and  rented  a  beautiful  apartment  at  11, 
Avenida  Doctor  Arce  in  Madrid.  I've  never  been  entirely  sure 
who  the  hell  Doctor  Arce  was,  but  one  thing  I  found  out  imme- 
diately: my  next-door  neighbor  was  none  other  than  Juan  Peron, 
the  ex-dictator  of  Argentina. 

Now,  aside  from  the  fact  that  I  did  not  much  care  for  the  dame 
he  was  living  with,  Peron  had  one  very  disturbing  trait.  Every  so 
often  he  would  march  out  onto  his  balcony,  which  adjoined 
mine,  and  make  long,  loud,  arm-waving  speeches  to  the  empty 
street  below.  Nobody  took  any  notice;  I  don't  suppose  they  even 
heard  him  against  the  sound  of  the  traffic.  But  the  speeches  dis- 
turbed me,  and  damn  it,  I  felt  they  let  down  the  tone  of  the 

After  years  in  the  country,  my  Spanish  was  now  fully  func- 
tional, and,  as  you  can  imagine,  I  was  especially  good  with  the 
bad  words.  I  knew  that  the  pejorative  Spanish  word  for  homo- 
sexual was  maricon,  which  rhymes  nicely  with  Peron.  So,  when- 
ever Senor  Peron  stepped  grandly  onto  his  balcony  and  began  to 



harangue  his  nonexistent  supporters,  Reenie  and  I  and  whatever 
other  servants  were  around  formed  our  personal  opposition  party 
by  chanting  in  unison,  "Perdw  es  un  mancon.  Perdw  es  un  mari- 
con"  After  all,  if  you're  involved  in  politics,  you've  got  to  expect 
a  certain  amount  of  opposition.  If  the  son  of  a  bitch  wanted  to 
make  a  comeback  as  the  dictator  of  Argentina,  let  him  rehearse 
in  a  studio  like  any  other  performer. 

But  if  I  thought  this  was  the  end  of  Senor  Peron,  it  was  because 
I  had  no  idea  of  how  powerful  he  was.  One  morning  I  was  in- 
vited to  come  to  a  nearby  American  base  for  a  flyby,  with  these 
wonderful  young  men  doing  formation  flying,  which  looked  al- 
most suicidal  to  me.  When  they  finally  landed,  each  plane's  nose 
was  poised  right  over  a  cold  bottle  of  beer. 

I  signed  autographs  for  these  guys,  smiled,  and  did  the  usual 
things.  There  was  supposed  to  be  a  beer  party  afterward,  but  for 
some  reason,  regulations  or  superstition,  I  was  never  sure  which, 
they  couldn't  invite  me  to  it.  The  boys  were  very  nice,  and  so 
upset  that  they  had  to  include  me  out  that  I  suggested  they  collect 
their  wives  and  girlfriends  and  head  on  over  to  my  place  for  a 
party  of  our  own. 

They  gathered  in  my  lounge,  about  a  dozen  handsome  young 
kids  in  uniform  with  wings  on  their  tunics  and  pretty  women  on 
their  arms.  Gleefully,  they  showed  me  the  present  they'd  brought: 
an  orange  flying  suit  with  the  special  shoulder  insignia  of  a  one- 
star  general  in  the  U.S.  Air  Force.  They  didn't  say  if  they'd  re- 
ceived the  proper  authorization  for  this  stunt,  but  the  suit  fitted 
perfectly,  and  as  far  as  I  was  concerned  I  was  the  first  female  one- 
star  general  in  the  Air  Force's  whole  damn  history. 

As  I  opened  the  door  to  let  in  one  more  guest,  I  noticed  the 
Peron  broad  sailing  past  with  her  nose  in  the  air  and  her  pair  of 
yippy  lap  dogs  yipping  their  way  down  the  stairs.  So  I  said  to  my 
two  dogs,  both  very  aristocratic  corgis,  "Go  get  those  two  little 
mutts!"  As  if  on  cue,  they  dashed  down  the  stairs,  making  lots  of 
noise,  but  I  don't  think  they  ever  attacked  or  hurt  the  Peron  dogs. 

The  next  thing  1  knew — it  couldn't  have  been  more  than  ten 
minutes  later — the  doorbell  rang  and  my  secretary  came  back  to 
tell  me,  "Ava,  there's  a  bunch  of  Guardia  Civil  out  there  looking 
very  serious."  So  I  strolled  out,  feeling  very  formidable  in  my 
orange  flying  suit,  smiled  and  said,  "Can  I  help  you?" 

There  were  four  Guardia  Civil  in  their  black  capes  and  intim- 



idating  three-cornered  hats,  as  well  as  an  officer,  and  it  was  the 
officer  who  said,  "We  are  here  to  arrest  the  owner  of  this  apart- 
ment, all  the  servants,  and  all  the  guests."  And,  we  learned  later, 
there  was  a  line  of  police  cars  waiting  outside  for  just  that  pur- 

"How  interesting,"  I  said.  "Why  don't  you  come  inside  and 
have  a  drink." 

They  came  inside,  but  brother,  they  didn't  look  like  they  were 
in  a  drinking  mood.  The  sight  of  all  these  American  fliers,  how- 
ever, changed  the  atmosphere,  even  though  you  wouldn't  have 
known  it  by  looking  at  the  Guardia's  stern  faces.  The  officer  was 
polite  and  courteous.  A  quick  nod,  a  few  muttered  phrases,  and 
they  were  filing  out  through  the  door  again.  But  we  were  that 
close  to  having  landed  in  jail.  And  that's  how  close  Peron  was  to 
Francisco  Franco,  the  man  who  pushed  all  the  buttons  in  Spain. 

The  case  was  officially  closed,  I  suppose,  but  it  continued  to 
rankle  me.  I  mean,  Jesus  Christ,  here's  Franco  welcoming  this 
little  tinpot  dictator,  setting  him  up  in  an  apartment,  and  allow- 
ing him  to  orate  any  time  he  damn  well  pleased  from  the  balcony 
next  to  mine,  and  when  my  poor  little  dogs  open  their  mouths 
it's  a  goddamn  international  incident. 

Other  things  about  Spain  began  to  bother  me  as  well.  For 
starters,  nothing  works  there.  It  doesn't  matter  who  you  are  or 
how  much  money  you've  got,  you  can't  find  a  telephone  that 
functions  properly.  And  I  doubt  if  even  the  Duchess  of  Alba  has  a 
toilet  that  works.  Not  to  mention  that  I  hadn't  made  a  single 
close  friend  there  in  all  those  years. 

So,  when  some  time  later  the  tax  authorities  arrived  on  my 
doorstep  demanding  something  like  a  million  dollars  in  back 
taxes,  I  was  not  exactly  in  the  most  receptive  frame  of  mine,  es- 
pecially since  as  far  as  I  knew  I'd  been  paying  my  damn  taxes 
every  year.  They  were  insistent,  however,  and  since  the  idea  of 
getting  embroiled  in  lawsuits  with  the  local  authorities  gave  me 
the  shudders,  I  packed  up  and  moved  to  London  in  1968  and 
never  looked  back. 

Since  that  first  visit  on  my  way  to  Pandora  and  the  Flying 
Dutchman,  I've  always  loved  London.  So  it  rains  sometimes.  It 
rains  everywhere  sometimes.  And  I  happen  to  like  the  rain.  More 
important,  the  British  leave  you  alone.  They  take  three  or  four 
photographs  when  you  arrive  and  then  they  forget  you  exist.  It's 



a  very  civilized  town.  If  I  choose  to  walk  down  the  street  or  go 
across  the  park  with  my  dog,  nobody  bothers  me.  When  people 
do  recognize  me,  they  smile  and  nod  their  heads,  which  is  a  hell 
of  a  lot  different  from  the  treatment  I've  been  used  to. 

And  whenever  I  needed  the  loot,  I  took  a  deep  breath  and 
agreed  to  some  film  work.  Naturally,  I  turned  down  more  roles 
than  I  accepted,  including  the  one  that  was  such  a  wonderful 
success  for  Anne  Bancroft  in  The  Graduate.  And  to  be  honest, 
the  ones  I  accepted  were  often  for  all  the  wrong  reasons. 

When  the  chance  for  a  cameo  as  Lily  Langtry  in  John  Huston's 
The  Life  and  Times  of  Judge  Roy  Bean  came  up  in  1971,  for 
instance,  I  was  planning  to  go  waterskiing  in  Acapulco  around 
that  time  anyway,  so  I  figured  I  might  as  well  let  them  pay  for  the 
trip  and  a  few  other  things  besides. 

And  when  I  was  offered  Earthquake  a  few  years  later,  I  was 
sitting  in  London  feeling  very  fed  up  because  the  weather  was 
dreadful  and  energy  shortages  meant  I  had  no  hot  water  or  heat. 
Suddenly  the  idea  of  making  a  film  again  in  Hollywood  sounded 
like  fun.  I  was  just  ready  for  a  change  of  scenery. 

I  got  a  bigger  change  of  scenery  than  I  bargained  for  in  1975, 
when  I  agreed  to  fly  to  the  Soviet  Union  and  take  a  small  role  in 
George  Cukor's  The  Blue  Bird.  I  was  told  the  assignment  would 
last  three  weeks.  It  turned  out  to  be  three  months  of  unending 
Russian  monotony. 

Before  I  got  over  there,  I  was  under  the  impression  that  all 
Russians  were  hard  workers.  Jesus!  They  never  appeared  on  time, 
took  no  pride  in  their  work,  nothing.  It  was  the  saddest  country 
Pve  ever  been  in.  One  day  Reenie  and  I  were  sitting  in  what  was 
supposed  to  be  a  dressing  room,  and  I  said,  "Fm  going  to  sit  here 
in  this  window  and  smile  at  every  Russian  that  passes.  And  I 
won't  give  up  until  I  make  one  Russian  smile  back  at  me."  I  even 
waved  at  them  and  said  hello.  Did  I  get  even  a  single  smile  back? 
Not  on  your  life.  When  we  all  finally  arrived  back  in  London,  I 
swear  to  you  I  saw  several  members  of  our  crew  fall  to  their 
knees  and  kiss  the  ground.  You've  never  seen  so  many  people 
happy  to  be  back  home. 



nless  you  count  television,  which  I  don't, 
it's  been  a  good  half  dozen  years  since  I 
made  a  motion  picture.  And  honey,  if 
you  think  I  miss  the  business,  you  had  better  think  again. 

I  live  my  life  now  according  to  my  own  standards.  In  all  my 
life  I've  never  stuck  to  a  schedule  of  any  kind,  and  I'm  not  about 
to  start  now.  I  am  really  an  uncomplicated  person.  I  like  to  live 
simply  and  out  of  the  public  eye.  I  enjoy  my  privacy  enormously. 
I'm  not  the  playgirl  I  used  to  be.  And  though  I  do  miss  the  cud- 
dles a  man  in  my  life  would  mean,  other  than  that  I  prefer  to  be 

I  do,  however,  have  a  lot  of  friends  in  London,  what  the  En- 
glish call  "chums."  Really  good  friends,  so  I'm  far  from  lonely. 
We  have  dinner  at  our  homes  or,  if  we  go  out,  it's  to  places  where 
we  won't  be  disturbed.  Thank  God,  I'm  not  a  public  figure  here. 
If  I  have  to,  as  I  once  did,  slip  into  a  robe  and,  with  my  hair 
looking  a  mess,  steal  down  the  street  to  a  friend's  house  to  bathe 
because  he  had  hot  water  and  I  didn't,  people  pretend  not  to 
notice  me  on  the  street.  God  bless  the  English.  I  even  once  re- 
ceived a  letter  addressed  simply  to  "Ava  Gardner,  Hyde  Park, 
London."  And  some  character  at  the  Post  Office  had  scrawled 
across  the  envelope,  "Which  bench?" 

Actually,  my  apartment  in  Ennismore  Gardens  in 
Knightsbridge  suits  me  so  well  I  hate  to  leave  it,  even  for  a  park 
bench.  It  takes  up  the  entire  second  floor  of  a  converted  Victorian 
building,  with  one  huge  room  living/dining  room  running  from 



front  to  back  and  corridors  branching  off  to  the  kitchen  and  bed- 
rooms that  are  happily  pressed  into  service  when  Bappie,  who 
now  lives  in  Los  Angeles,  or  Reenie,  who  moved  to  Sacramento, 
comes  for  a  visit. 

The  place  is  decorated  in  Oriental  style,  with  huge  screens,  tall 
vases,  and  massive  chests,  but  I  made  sure  to  place  comfortable 
armchairs  on  either  side  of  the  fireplace  where  I  can  sit  around  in 
jeans  and  a  shirt,  reading,  listening  to  music,  or  doing  crossword 
puzzles.  And  though  I'm  not  very  big  on  mementos,  there  are 
photographs  of  my  favorite  people  all  over  the  place. 

The  best  thing  about  the  apartment,  however,  is  its  floor-to- 
ceiling  French  doors  that  open  out  onto  the  lovely  gardens.  They 
each  have  a  balcony,  and  Morgan,  my  current  Welsh  corgi,  uses 
one  of  them  as  his  office,  barking  salutations  to  everyone  who 
passes  by  on  the  street  below. 

Morgan,  who  is  named  after  Jess  Morgan,  my  friend  and  fi- 
nancial adviser,  is  really  one  of  the  joys  of  my  life.  I  make  sure  he 
never  runs  out  of  his  favorite  treat  (raw  carrots,  of  all  things), 
I've  scribbled  him  cards  when  I've  been  out  of  town,  and  I've 
always  enjoyed  taking  him  on  long  daily  walks.  We'd  often  trek 
into  Hyde  Park,  where  like  a  good  fellow  he'd  fetch  his  ball  for 
as  long  as  I  had  the  energy  to  keep  tossing  it  out  there. 

When  Morgan  and  I  are  at  home,  I'm  likely  as  not  to  wander 
over  to  the  television  and  see  what's  on.  Every  once  in  a  while 
one  of  my  old  films  will  turn  up  and  I'll  think,  God,  I  was  pretty, 
wasn't  I?  The  beauty  thing  was  fun — it's  always  nice  to  be  told 
you're  beautiful — but  honestly,  I  think  I  look  much  more  inter- 
esting now.  I  don't  hanker  after  lost  youth  or  any  of  that  rubbish. 
And  I'll  never  be  one  of  those  women  who  look  in  mirrors  and 

There  is  something  I  resent  about  age,  however,  and  that's  that 
you  can't  do  the  things  you  used  to  be  able  to.  Believe  me,  honey, 
my  days  of  staying  up  all  night  and  then  taking  a  shower  and 
plunging  on  are  long  behind  me.  But  still,  I  really  resent  it  when 
people  tell  me  I  ought  to  cut  down  on  this  or  that.  Tell  me  to  stop 
drinking  and  111  drink.  Tell  me  to  stop  smoking  and  Fll  smoke.  I 
once  called  John  Huston,  who'd  been  an  outrageous  smoker  and 
ended  up  living  attached  to  a  cylinder  of  oxygen,  and  asked  him 
when  he  finally  gave  up  smoking.  "When  I  had  to,  darling,"  he 
said  in  that  molasses  voice  of  his.  "When  I  had  to." 



A  few  years  ago,  something  happened  to  me  that  I  never  antici- 
pated. I  had  a  stroke,  which  affected  my  walking  and  made  my 
damn  left  arm  just  about  useless.  Having  always  been  an  active 
person,  if  I'd  fully  realized  that  I  was  even  partially  paralyzed,  I 
would  have  jumped  out  of  the  window — if  I  could  have  made  it 
that  far. 

Instead,  I  went  on.  I  had  no  choice:  that's  one  lesson  I  learned 
very  early  in  life.  You  have  to  persevere.  And  I  learned  to  com- 
pensate, to  take  joy  in  sights  and  sounds  and  situations  I  once 
took  for  granted.  One  thing  Fve  always  known  is  that  the  process 
of  growing  up,  growing  old,  and  growing  toward  death  has  never 
seemed  frightening.  And,  you  know,  if  I  had  my  life  to  live  over 
again,  I'd  live  it  exactly  the  same  way.  Maybe  a  few  changes  here 
and  there,  but  nothing  special.  Because  the  truth  is,  honey,  Fve 
enjoyed  my  life.  I've  had  a  hell  of  a  good  time. 



bout  fifteen  years  ago  I  was  asked  to  de- 
sign the  clothes  for  Permission  to  Kill, 
one  of  Ava's  films.  You  meet  people,  ei- 
ther the  chemistry  works  or  it  doesn't;  and  from  that  day  we 
became  very  great  friends.  There  was  something  very  human, 
very  vulnerable  about  her.  I  felt  like  protecting  her,  and  then  she 
protected  me.  She  never  went  to  fashion  shows  before,  ever.  But 
she  never  missed  any  of  mine.  She  would  just  say,  "Honey,  I'll  be 
there."  It  was  real  support. 

I  would  go  out  in  the  evening  and  she  would  say,  "Oh,  honey, 
what  are  you  wearing?"  And  the  jewelry  would  come  round  and 
I  would  wear  it  and  the  next  day  it  would  go  back  again.  Or  once 
I  was  ill,  I  had  a  very  bad  cold,  and  she  phoned  me.  It  was  almost 
midnight,  it  was  very  ugly  winter  weather,  and  she  said,  "Honey, 
do  you  have  anything?"  And  there  she  was  in  a  taxi,  with  the 
medicine,  with  the  hot  soup,  at  midnight. 

And  this  was  the  lady  who  gave  me  my  wedding  reception, 
who  gave  me  away.  She  was  all  dressed  up  in  white,  with  a  white 
fox,  wonderful,  because  she  said,  "I've  been  married  three  times 
and  I've  never  been  in  white,  honey."  The  ceremony  was  very 
early  in  the  morning,  nine  o'clock,  and  she  ordered  a  cab  for 
herself  and  Charles  Gray,  a  friend  who  lived  down  the  street.  For 
some  reason,  the  cab  didn't  come.  There  were  workmen  on  the 
square,  and  she  just  went  into  their  lorry  and  asked  them,  "Can  I 
go?"  She  arrived  in  that,  with  a  workman  driving  them,  and  she 
said,  "Honey,  even  MGM  could  not  have  done  it."  When  she 
relaxed  with  people,  she  was  terrific. 



Ava  moved  to  London  because  she  quite  liked  the  privacy  of  it, 
and  the  culture.  In  London  you  can  choose  the  life  you  want,  and 
you  are  left  alone  to  it.  You  don't  feel  that  you  have  to  do  things 
that  you  don't  want  to  do.  You're  quite  accepted  if  you  don't. 

I  deal  with  lots  of  ladies,  all  those  who  are  in  front  of  the 
camera.  They  can  deal  with  people  they  are  working  with,  and 
the  moment  someone  else  comes  from  the  outside  they  just 
freeze.  It's  not  just  Ava;  you'll  find  most  of  film  stars  are  very 
private  people.  It's  a  very  tough  journey  when  you  really  have  to 
continuously  be  it.  And  know  that  you  are  looked  at.  One  is  not 
prepared  always.  When  day  after  day,  day  after  day,  every  little 
scene  that  you  do  is  reported,  you  just  get  fed  up.  Although  being 
a  public  person  you  understand  that  it  has  to  be  done,  that 
doesn't  mean  that  people  take  it  very  easily.  Ava  would  say, 
"Honey,  it's  a  bitch."  Because  sometimes  it  just  gets  too  much. 

But  whether  you  feel  like  it  or  not,  the  public  wants  you.  Ava 
said  that  what  it  had  become  was  sheer  ugliness.  She  said  when 
they  were  in  Hollywood,  they  were  not  allowed  to  smoke  in  pub- 
lic, they  were  not  allowed  to  do  this  and  that.  It  was  all  about 
beauty.  And  now  they  will  photograph  you  only  when  they  see 
you  in  an  awful  pose,  position,  situation.  The  world  has  changed. 
People  like  ugliness.  They  don't  like  perfection,  they  don't  like 

Ava  really  loved  life.  She  wasn't  negative  about  things;  she  was 
the  most  completely  passionate  person.  About  everything.  She 
just  loved  beautiful  things.  Even  clothes — she'd  just  enjoy  them. 
Everything  was  like  she'd  never  had  a  dress  before.  A  wonderful 
quality.  She  hated,  as  we  called  them,  the  long  faces,  negativeness 
in  anything.  She  was  positive.  She  would  never  say,  "No,  you 
mustn't  do  that."  It  was  "Just  do  it.  You  deserve  it.  Come  on, 
you  must  have  it." 

And  she  never  ever  said  anything  against  or  about  anybody, 
Never,  never,  never.  Whenever  she  married,  she  loved  the  man 
she  married.  And  when  it  didn't  work,  it  didn't  work.  It's  as  sim- 
ple as  that.  And  she  had  the  kind  of  respect  that  she  would  never 
allow  anyone  to  say  anything.  I  remember  when  she  gave  an  in- 
terview to  someone  who  was  divorcing  and  talking  so  badly 
about  her  husband.  She  said,  "Honey,  I  can't  understand  that 
you  could  possibly  talk  like  that.  You  must  have  loved  him  some- 
time and  you  grew  apart." 

She  liked  in  men  a  thing  that  is  very  difficult  to  find,  a  com- 



plete  person  where  you  could  feel  good  about  everything.  Pro- 
tected and  loved,  being  able  to  share  and  to  talk,  not  just  the 
physical  side.  And  if  you  have  one,  it's  very  difficult  to  find  the 
other.  When  she  was  with  a  man,  he  had  to  be  looked  up  to, 
respected.  She  couldn't  respect  someone  who  was  just  hanging 
around  her.  She  couldn't.  It  would  destroy  her  and  she  would 
destroy  him. 

Today,  you  have  these  actresses  who  go  to  school  and  they 
can't  wait  to  get  success.  They  can  cope  with  it  because  they  feel 
secure.  Ava,  because  it  started  so  early  in  her  life,  she  wasn't 
quite  ready  for  it.  Very  often  she  would  sort  of  say,  "Oh,  well, 
you  know,  honey,  I'm  just  a  movie  queen."  But  she  was  a  much 
warmer  person  than  these  other  actresses.  She  gave  more  to  life, 
and  wanted  more  out  of  it. 

I  see  her  as  this  beautiful  little  girl  who  left  Mama  and  Papa, 
who  was  happy  in  her  childhood,  and  had  a  sort  of  vision  and 
dream  of  something  completely  different.  And  suddenly  she  was 
discovered  and  sent  to  this  MGM.  She  called  it  not  a  factory,  but 
much  worse.  Like  a  prison  camp  —  every  name  that  is  not  nice. 
They  were  absolutely  tortured,  treated  like  God  knows  what. 
And  that,  she  said,  destroyed  her.  "We  were  exploited  like  ani- 
mals," she  said.  "Just  exploited." 

So  that  wonderful  beautiful  girl,  who  was  brought  up  with 
freedom,  with  love,  with  everything,  suddenly  was  like  a  flower 
with  a  chain  put  around  her.  You  are  allowed  to  grow  just  that 
way.  You  can't  open  your  arms,  you  can't  do  what  you  want 
naturally  to  do.  So  you  suppress  yourself  your  whole  life.  And 
because  of  it,  you  simply  try  to  run  away.  That  maybe  is  where 
alcohol  came  in,  because  through  struggling  and  running  and  not 
being  able  to  be  yourself,  you  need  to  get  the  simple  courage  to 
get  into  another  room. 

You  look  to  life  for  that  something  that  was  there  in  your 
childhood.  And  you  cannot  find  it.  This  fame  makes  you  like  an 
animal,  really,  like  a  hunted  animal.  You're  just  beautiful,  you're 
not  allowed  to  be  yourself.  I  think  it  was  very,  very  difficult  for 
Ava  to  live  that  life.  She  was  a  free  woman,  she  couldn't  be 
locked  in. 



y  older  sister  was  working  for  Miss  G. 
around  the  time  she  was  married  to 
Artie  Shaw.  When  my  sister  found  she 
had  to  go  back  to  Chicago,  she  said,  "Reenie,  why  don't  you 
work  for  Ava?  She's  such  a  sweet  little  girl  and  she  needs  some- 
body that  she  can  trust.  She's  going  through  some  terrible  times." 
I  began  working  for  Miss  G.  in  1947  or  1948  and  we  were  just 
pals  from  day  one.  We  could  get  mad  at  one  another,  but  we 
never  stopped  speaking.  All  these  years,  whether  we  were  to- 
gether or  not,  that  was  the  one  thing  we  had.  I  guess  that's  why 
we  remained  friends. 

She  was  fun,  and  very  sharing.  If  I  ever  made  her  anything, 
from  a  cup  of  coffee  to  a  martini,  she'd  say,  "Well,  where's 
yours?"  She  wasn't  what  we  thought  of  as  the  stereotypical 
Southerner.  We'd  go  to  clubs  during  the  time  before  integration, 
and  if  they  threw  me  out,  she'd  leave,  too.  So  to  keep  her,  they'd 
tolerate  me. 

We  were  both  Capricorns,  and  Capricorns  just  work  with  the 
present.  Sometimes  I'd  wake  her  up  and  she'd  say,  "Oh,  shit, 
what's  today  gonna  bring?"  She  was  like  that.  She  never  said 
tomorrow  or  yesterday.  It  was  "Do  I  want  to  face  this  day?" 
Then  sometimes  she'd  cover  her  head  back  up. 

Her  work  was,  as  she  would  say,  a  paycheck.  She  knew  this 
was  the  only  work  she  could  do  where  she  could  make  a  decent 
living,  and  she'd  say,  "If  you  can  get  me  there,  Reenie,  I'll  work." 
And  sometimes  getting  her  to  the  set  was  a  major  difficulty.  She 
did  not  like  working.  Period. 



"Fm  not  going  today,"  she'd  say.  "Call  'em  up.  Tell  'em  any- 

"You've  got  to  be  kidding,  lady.  You  know  you  got  to  go. 
Why  do  you  do  this?" 

"Fm  not  going.  Tell  'em  anything" 

"Okay,  if  you  don't  go,  Fm  going  to  sing."  And  then  she'd  get 
up,  because  she  knew  I  was  a  lousy  singer.  We  played  games  like 
that.  Once  she  got  there,  she  would  act  as  if  there  was  no  place 
she'd  rather  be.  I  could  have  socked  her.  .  .  .  But  my  God,  some- 
times to  get  her  there. 

If  a  producer  or  somebody  offered  her  a  script,  if  she  didn't 
want  to  do  it  she  didn't  care  how  much  money  was  involved,  she 
just  wouldn't  do  it.  Wouldn't  discuss  it,  wouldn't  even  look  at  it. 
In  Spain  they  had  a  hamburger  place  called  Pam-Pam  and  she 
would  say,  "I  might  end  up  working  in  Pam-Pam,  but  Fm  not 
going  to  do  anything  I  don't  want  to  do."  It  didn't  bother  her 
one  bit. 

She  was  a  very  demanding  person  at  times.  She  wanted  com- 
plete loyalty;  that's  why  she  didn't  like  a  lot  of  people  around 
her.  If  six  of  us  went  into  a  restaurant  and  two  over  here  were 
talking  quietly,  saying,  "Tomorrow,  if  it's  not  raining,  we'll  go 
fishing,"  if  she  didn't  hear  what  we  were  saying,  she  would  think 
we  were  maybe  saying  something  concerning  her  that  we  didn't 
want  her  to  hear.  She  was  very  self-conscious  that  way. 

And  she  loved  to  curse.  It  would  just  tickle  her  to  put  a  whole 
string  of  words  together.  "Not  one  word  you've  said  makes 
sense,  you  know  that,  don't  you?"  I'd  say  to  her.  "Why  do  you 
have  to  say  all  of  them?  Why  don't  you  just  say  one?" 

She  could  change  when  she  drank.  It  was  like  night  and  day 
then.  It  was  a  thing  we  used  to  say:  "Watch  the  third  martini." 
She  would  get  more  suspicious  of  the  people  around  her.  But  she 
had  no  dealings  with  drugs.  She'd  say,  "Anything  you  can't  get 
out  of  a  bottle  of  gin,  you  don't  need."  We  had  a  code  for  it,  we 
called  it  the  three  G's:  Good  Gordon's  Gin.  She'd  say,  "Reenie, 
do  we  have  any  of  those  three  G's?"  } 

We  just  had  codes  for  everything,  especially  people,  so  we 
could  talk  all  day  and  nobody  would  know  who  we  were  talking 
about.  Barbara  Stanwyck,  we'd  call  her  Short  Lips.  Hugh 
O'Brian  we  referred  to  as  Tight-Ass.  Robert  Taylor  was  Mr. 
Clark;  Fred  MacMurray,  Mr.  Gordon.  One  actor  we  called 



Snowflakes.  We  had  a  director  we  called  Cornflakes.  We  called 
Deborah  Kerr  Miss  Continuation  because  her  voice  never 
changed  from  one  film  to  the  other.  I  won't  tell  you  the  name  we 
had  for  Elizabeth  Taylor  because  she  was  a  very  sweet  girl  and 
we  loved  her  very  much. 

Miss  G.  was  an  extremely  funny  person.  She  should  have  been 
a  comedian.  She  could  get  fun  out  of  the  darnedest  things,  and 
would  nearly  kill  herself  laughing.  And  she  loved  getting  back  at 
people.  When  she  and  Eileen,  her  secretary,  were  in  Africa  for 
Mogambo,  they  wanted  to  go  to  this  club  that  was  right  across 
the  street  from  the  hotel.  But  the  club  didn't  want  any  actresses, 
especially  without  an  escort,  so  they  kept  saying  they  were  filled 

Finally,  she  said,  "Eileen,  why  don't  you  call  and  tell  them  that 
you  are  Clark  Gable's  secretary  and  that  Mr.  Gable  is  coming  in 
out  of  the  bush  and  he  would  like  a  table  for  about  twenty-four 
people?"  Then  she  and  Eileen  sat  by  the  hotel  window  and  they 
watched  the  waiters  hustling  to  set  the  tables  up.  Of  course, 
Clark  Gable  had  no  idea;  he  didn't  know  anything  about  it.  She 
laughed  about  it  for  years.  She'd  say,  "That's  a  just  reward." 

But  I  don't  think  she  ever  realized  she  was  a  star.  People  kept 
telling  her  she  was,  but  to  her,  she  just  worked  in  the  movies.  She 
would  say,  "I  take  my  paycheck,  wash  up,  and  go  home."  She 
lived  for  years  without  any  of  the  regular  things  that  movie  stars 
have.  If  she  didn't  have  a  car,  she'd  get  out  and  walk  five  blocks 
and  take  a  taxi  to  where  she  was  going.  There  was  often  nothing 
to  remind  her  that  she  was  a  movie  star. 

She  did  become  more  movie-starrish  in  Spain.  But  she  got  tired 
of  that,  got  tired  of  the  distance  that  that  put  between  people, 
and  she  finally  got  back  to  her  old  self.  Sometimes  we  got  in 
situations  where  I  was  really  frightened  for  her,  as  well  as  for 
myself.  We'd  be  out  too  late,  trying  to  go  home  instead  of  staying 
on,  and  the  Gnardia  Civil  would  stop  us.  And  she  had  a  flip 
tongue  sometimes,  she'd  tell  them,  "You  tell  Franco  .  .  ."  and  all 
that.  Oh,  my  God,  there  was  nothing  timid  about  her.  She  had  a 
tongue  for  you  if  you  messed  with  her;  it  could  get  icy.  Yes,  in- 
deed, she  could  back  you  off  of  her. 

Spain  is  where  she  got  into  her  flamenco  phase.  I  think  she 
liked  it  so  much  because  it  annoyed  everybody  else,  I  really  do. 
She  knew  it  drove  everybody  else  up  the  wall.  And  once  she  left 



Spain,  she  couldn't  have  cared  less  about  that  mess,  she  turned 
off  it  that  quick. 

Wherever  we  went,  she  could  always  find  Gypsies.  While  we 
were  in  Australia  for  On  the  Beach,  she  found  this  little  Gypsy 
fella,  he  had  two  girls  with  him,  and  they'd  come  back  to  the 
house  and  do  the  doggonedest  flamenco.  I  wasn't  too  fond  of  it, 
but  it  didn't  bother  me.  I  could  roll  with  the  punches  because  she 
and  I  were  the  same  age.  But  Bappie,  being  older,  she  hated  it, 
and  Ava  would  make  me  go  down  and  wake  her  up  because  we 
were  having  a  flamenco.  She  would  be  cussin',  "Goddamnit,  god- 
damnit,  I'm  so  sick  of  this  fucking  flamenco."  And  I  would  say, 
"Come  on  up  and  give  us  some  claps." 

We  always  had  wine  for  the  Gypsies — that's  all  they  drank,  the 
cheaper  the  better.  On  this  particular  night,  the  music  was  going 
and  the  gals  were  flamencoing,  and  the  little  guy  was  going 
around  and  around.  He  grabbed  Ava  and  she  was  going  around 
doing  the  paso  doble  with  him.  She  got  all  excited  and  snatched 
his  hat  off  to  put  it  on  her  head,  and  his  hair  was  all  in  that  hat. 
The  poor  little  guy  felt  the  air  on  his  head  and  knew  he  had  been 
uncovered.  He  was  just  a  little  short  old  man,  he  must've  been 
seventy  years  old. 

When  Ava  looked  down  and  saw  all  this  hair,  I  thought  she 
was  going  to  faint.  She  threw  the  hat  down  and  tore  out  of  there 
and  hid.  The  little  man  retrieved  his  hat,  plopped  it  back  on  his 
head  and  flew  down  the  stairs  with  the  two  girls.  They  never 
collected  their  money  that  night.  And  her  sister  continued  to  cuss. 
"Goddamnit,  serves  her  goddamn  right.  Goddamn  Gypsies." 
Boy,  we  laughed  hard  for  years  at  that. 

I've  met  all  of  Ava's  husbands.  She  loved  all  of  them,  and  she 
was  on  a  friendly  basis  with  them  afterward.  One  thing  was,  she 
didn't  take  any  money  from  them.  Men  always  love  you  when 
you  don't  get  their  pocketbooks. 

Mickey  Rooney  was  a  funny  little  guy — she  got  a  big  kick  out 
of  him.  She  saw  him  last  year  and  she  said,  "Reenie,  he's  still  the 
biggest  liar  in  the  world.  Poor  Mickey,  he  cannot  tell  the  truth, 
he  never  could.  But  he's  cute." 

Artie  Shaw  was  not  fun.  He  was  nice,  but  certainly  nothing  fun 
about  him.  Now  one  thing  Ava  never  referred  to  was  nationality. 
But  this  particular  time,  after  she  saw  him  in  New  York,  she  said, 
"Reenie,  when  I  think  of  how  crazy  I  was  about  that  man.  When 



I  saw  him  the  other  day,  he  was  just  a  little  ol'  half-baldheaded 
Jew.  I  don't  know  why  I  loved  him,  but  he  had  me  goin'  so." 

Howard  Hughes  was  so  rich  he  didn't  have  to  dislike  or  like 
anybody.  He  could  throw  a  brick  and  hide  his  hand.  He  wasn't  a 
man,  he  was  a  giant  in  how  he  could  rule  people.  He  would  go  to 
universities  and  get  the  best  brains  in  there  and  hire  them.  These 
poor  guys  thought  they  were  going  to  be  engineers  or  something, 
and  maybe  a  year  later,  he  might  call  one  of  them  up  and  tell  him 
to  bring  him  a  loaf  of  whole  wheat  bread  or  a  can  of  figs.  They 
thought  they  were  going  to  be  working  on  airplanes,  but  he  had 
them  for  when  and  if  he  needed  them.  Ava  liked  him,  she  ad- 
mired him,  but  I  don't  think  she  loved  him.  It  was  sort  of,  "I 
don't  mind." 

Frank  Sinatra,  that  was  her  big  love.  He  was  and  is  a  lovely 
man,  and  they  did  love  one  another  so  much.  They  really  did.  It 
was  too  bad  they  just  couldn't  make  it.  There  were  not  many 
peaceful  moments  between  them — they  didn't  have  that  kind  of 

Little  things,  anything,  could  set  them  off.  If  he  looked  across 
the  room  in  a  restaurant,  she  would  swear,  "Reenie,  I  saw  him, 
he  was  winking  at  a  girl."  Probably  wasn't  a  girl  in  sight,  but 
she'd  say,  "I  saw  him  give  her  the  look."  And  the  fight  would  be 

Or  they'd  be  in  her  house  down  at  the  beach  in  Pacific  Pal- 
isades. He'd  get  mad  and  he'd  call  his  man,  Hank  Sanicola,  and 
say,  "Come  get  my  clothes."  So  we'd  put  the  clothes  on  a  broom 
handle,  he'd  be  on  one  end,  I'd  be  on  the  other,  and  by  the  time 
we  got  the  clothes  in  the  car,  he'd  call  downstairs  and  say,  "Tell 
Hank  to  bring  my  clothes  back."  They'd  made  up.  And  Hank 
would  get  so  mad.  "Goddamnit,"  he'd  say,  "I  wish  they'd  make 
up  their  minds." 

After  he  calmed  down  from  the  fact  that  he  was  famous  and 
all  after  From  Here  to  Eternity,  he  always  wanted  her  with  him. 
But,  as  he  became  famous,  he  took  on  this  entourage  of  people. 
And  Ava  couldn't  deal  with  that,  as  she  got  older;  she  just 
couldn't  deal  with  a  lot  of  people.  He  was  always  calling  her  up; 
even  when  he  was  marrying  Barbara,  he  called  her  several  times 
and  asked  if  she  would  come  back.  She  loved  him;  she  just  didn't 
love  some  of  the  people  that  he  had  to  have  with  him.  The  timing 
was  bad  for  them.  That  was  the  whole  thing.  Timing. 


AVA    GARDNER    ___ 

Now  George  C.  Scott,  he  was  a  very  dangerous  man.  He 
would  drink  that  vodka,  oh,  my  God,  he  would  tear  up  a  place. 
We  were  staying  at  the  Savoy  in  London,  and  they  went  to  see 
Othello.  I  knew  that  was  a  mistake,  because  when  he  got  full  of 
his  liquor,  he  would  relive  these  horrible  things.  So  they  came 
back  and  naturally,  he  thought  he  was  Othello.  He  was  pounding 
on  her  and  finally  she  got  away  from  him  and  ran  into  her  bed- 

I  was  in  the  adjoining  room,  and  I  heard  her  calling  to  me.  But 
he  was  sitting  on  the  couch  in  the  living  room  right  by  the  little 
hall  to  her  room  and  dared  me  to  pass.  At  first  I  ignored  him,  I 
said,  "She's  calling  me,  I  have  to  go,  that's  what  I'm  getting  paid 
for."  And  he  took  a  glass  and  broke  it  and  got  right  in  my  face, 
waving  this  broken  glass  and  saying,  "You  gonna  go  by?  You 
goin'  by?  Come  on  by,  come  on  by."  And  I  realized,  my  God,  he 
was  serious,  so  I  backed  off. 

I  had  cased  the  place  and  I  remembered  that  there  was  a  little 
window  over  the  bathroom  that  went  into  the  main  hallway.  So  1 
left  the  room  and  got  a  bus  boy  and  he  got  some  orange  crates.  I 
eased  up  to  the  window,  pried  it  open,  and  slid  down  to  the  tub. 
She  had  the  door  closed,  and  I  opened  it  and  just  popped  my 
finger  a  little  bit  to  get  her  attention.  1  got  her  up  over  the  tub 
and  out  the  window  and  then  I  followed.  You  think  that's  scary? 
You  should  have  been  there. 

One  thing  about  Miss  G.,  though,  she  was  not  a  sad  person  at 
all.  Even  last  May,  when  she  was  quite  crippled.  She  couldn't  use 
her  left  arm  at  all,  she  would  just  have  to  carry  it  around.  Or  she 
would  be  sitting  on  it  and  couldn't  get  up.  "Come  here  and  get 
this  fucker  out  from  under  me,"  she'd  say.  "I  can't  do  a  goddamn 
thing  with  it.  One  of  these  days  I'm  going  to  take  a  knife  and 
chop  the  fucker  off."  She'd  want  to  see  your  expression  when  she 
said  it,  and  then  she'd  fall  out  laughing  later.  She  could  even  find 
fun  in  an  arm  that  wouldn't  move. 

We'd  go  to  the  park  with  her  dog,  and  it  took  us  forever  to 
walk  there,  bumping  against  one  another,  because  I  don't  walk 
too  good  myself  at  times.  We  walked  a  little  too  far  one  day,  just 
talking  about  old  times  and  laughing,  and  coming  back  she  said, 
"I'm  kinda  tired." 

"Well,  I  am,  too,"  I  said.  "You  think  we  can  make  it  to  that 
bench  over  there?" 



"I  don't  think  I  can  make  it,  Reenie.  Let's  sit  down  and  rest  a 

Without  thinking,  we  both  plunked  down  on  the  ground.  Of 
course,  after  we  rested,  we  couldn't  get  up.  Here  we  are,  two 
cripples,  trying  to  get  up.  We  had  to  roll  over  and  crawl  to  the 
nearest  tree.  The  dog  is  having  a  fit,  "Yap-yap-yap-yap-yap,"  and 
Ava  is  saying,  "If  the  fucker  would  shut  up,  everybody  wouldn't 
see  us." 

We  finally  got  close  enough  to  the  tree  for  me  to  pull  myself 
up.  After  I  got  my  balance  I  went  back  and  got  her.  By  then  we 
were  laughing  so  hard  water  was  running  down  our  legs.  She 
said,  "Reenie,  did  you  ever  think  we  would  come  to  this?"  And  I 
said,  "No,  never,  never,  never." 



n  January  25,  1990,  Ava  Gardner  died  of 
pneumonia  after  a  long  illness  in  her  be- 
loved Ennismore  Gardens  flat.  She  was 
just  a  month  past  her  sixty-seventh  birthday.  Her  long-time 
housekeeper  Carmen  Vargas,  and  Morgan,  her  Welsh  Corgi,  were 
with  her  when  she  died. 

Ava  worked  for  more  than  two  years  on  her  autobiography, 
contacting  old  friends,  organizing  photographs,  and  filling  some 
ninety  tapes.  The  Ava  Gardner  Living  Trust  would  like  to  thank 
Alan  Burgess  and  Kenneth  Turan  for  putting  her  reminiscences 
into  book  form. 

Burial  took  place  in  Smithfield,  North  Carolina,  on  January 
29.  As  she  expressly  stipulated,  Ava  was  buried  in  the  Gardner 
family  plot,  laid  to  rest  among  the  people  she  knew  and  loved 



Ava  Gardner  Living  Trust 



The  facts  in  the  following  listing  were  compiled  by  James  R.  Par- 
ish for  The  Hollywood  Beauties  (Arlington  House).  His  research 
is  hereby  gratefully  acknowledged. 



Norma  Shearer,  Melvyn  Douglas,  Gail  Patrick,  Lee  Bowman,  Mar j  one 
Main,  Reginald  Owen,  Alan  Mowbray,  Florence  Bates,  Sig  Ruman,  Dennis 
Hoey,  Heather  Thatcher,  Connie  Gilchrist,  Ava  Gardner  (Girl) 


Producers:  Robert  Z.  Leonard,  Orville  Dull 

Director:  Robert  Z.  Leonard 

Screenwriters:      Claudine  West,  Hans  Rameau,  George  Froeschel 

Based  in  part  on  the  play  Tonight  at  8:30  by  Noel  Coward 



Robert  Young,  Marsha  Hunt,  Harvey  Stephens,  Darryl  Hickman,  Noel 
Madison,  Jonathan  Hale,  Joseph  Anthony,  Ava  Gardner  (Ringsider) 


Producer:  Jack  Chertok 

Director:  Richard  Thorpe 

Screenwriter:  Allen  Rivkin 



William  Lundigan,  Jean  Rogers,  Dan  Dailey,  Jr.,  Guy  Kibbee,  J.  Carroll 
Naish,  Connie  Gilchrist,  Sam  Levene,  Leo  Gorcey,  Rags  Ragland,  Ava 
Gardner  (Ringsider) 


Producer:  Irving  Starr 

Director:  David  Miller 

Screenwriters:  Allen  Rivkin,  Fay  and  Michael  Kanin 


AVA    GARDNER    . _____ — 



Ann  Rutherford,  Robert  Sterling,  Virginia  Weidler,  Guy  Kibbee,  Irene  Rich, 
Henry  O'Neill,  Connie  Gilchrist,  Ava  Gardner  (Girl  in  Car) 


Producer:  Samuel  Marx 

Director:  Charles  Riesner 

Screenwriters  Muriel  Roy  Bolton,  Rian  James,  Harry  Ruskin 



Van  Heflin,  Marsha  Hunt,  Lee  Bowman,  Samuel  S.  Hinds,  Cliff  Clark,  Ed- 
die Quillan,  Ava  Gardner  (Carhop) 


Producer:  Jack  Chertok 

Director:  Fred  Zinnemann 

Screenwriters:  Allen  Rivkin,  John  C.  Higgins 


PILOT  NO.  5 

Franchot  Tone,  Marsha  Hunt,  Gene  Kelly,  Van  Johnson,  Alan  Baxter,  Dick 
Simmons,  Steven  Geray,  Ava  Gardner  (Girl) 


Producer:  B.  P.  Fineman 

Director:  George  Sidney 

Screenwriter:  David  Hertz 



John  Carradine,  Patricia  Morison,  Alan  Curtis,  Ralph  Morgan,  Howard 
Freeman,  Ludwig  Stossel,  Edgar  Kennedy,  Ava  Gardner  (Katy  Chotnik) 


Producer:  Seymour  Nebenzal 

Director:  Douglas  Sirk 

Screenwriters:  Peretz  Hirschbein,  Melvin  Levy,  Doris  Malloy 





Leo  Gorcey,  Huntz  Hall,  Bobby  Jordan,  Bela  Lugosi,  Ava  Gardner  (Betty), 
Ric  Vallin,  Minerva  Urecal 


Producers:  Sam  Katzman,  Jack  Dietz 

Director:  William  Beaudine 

Screenwriter:  Kenneth  Higgins 



Susan  Peters,  Herbert  Marshall,  Mary  Astor,  Elliott  Reid,  Richard  Carlson, 
Allyn  Joslyn,  Ava  Gardner  (Girl) 


Producer:  Robert  Sisk 

Director:  Jules  Dassin 

Screenwriters:  Ian  McLellan  Hunter,  Bill  Noble 



Margaret  O'Brien,  James  Craig,  Marsha  Hunt,  Philip  Merivale,  Keenan 
Wynn,  Henry  O'Neill,  Donald  Meek,  Ava  Gardner  (Hat  Check  Girl) 


Producer:  Robert  Sisk 

Director:  Roy  Rowland 

Screenwriter:  Isobel  Lennart 



Kay  Kyser,  Marilyn  Maxwell,  William  Gargan,  Lena  Home,  Ava  Gardner 



Producer:  Irving  Starr 

Director:  Tim  Whelan 

Screenwriters:  Nat  Perrin,  Warren  Wilson 





Lionel   Barrymore,   Van  Johnson,   Marilyn   Maxwell,   Keye   Luke,   Ava 
Gardner  Qean  Brown),  Alma  Kruger,  Rags  Ragland 


Director:  Willis  Goldbeck 

Screenwriters:      Martin  Berkeley,  Harry  Ruskin 



Ann  Sothern,  John  Hodiak,  Tom  Drake,  Ava  Gardner  (Gloria  Fullerton), 
Donald  Meek 


Producer:  George  Haight 

Director:  Harry  Beaumont 

Screenwriter:  Mary  C.  McCall,  Jr. 



James   Craig,  Frances   Gifford,   Ava   Gardner   (Hilda   Spotts),   Edmund 
Gwenn,  Sig  Ruman,  Reginald  Owen 


Producer:  Frederick  Stephani 

Director:  Willis  Goldbeck 

Screenwriter:  Lawrence  Hazard 



George  Raft,  Ava  Gardner  (Mary),  Victor  McLaglen,  Tom  Conway,  Jorja 
Curtright,  Florence  Bates,  Charles  Drake 

United  Artists 

Producer:  Seymour  Nebenzal 

Director:  Leonide  Moguy 

Screenwriter:  Philip  Yordan 





Burt  Lancaster,  Ava  Gardner  (Kitty  Collins),  Edmond  O'Brien,  Albert  Dek- 
ker,  Sam  Levene,  John  Miljan,  Virginia  Christine,  Vince  Barnett,  Charles  D. 
Brown,  Donald  MacBride,  Phil  Brown,  Charles  McGraw,  William  Conrad 


Producer:  Mark  Hellinger 

Director:  Robert  Siodmak 

Screenwriters:      Anthony  Veiller,  John  Huston  (uncredited) 

Based  on  the  story  by  Ernest  Hemingway 



Clark  Gable,  Deborah  Kerr,  Sydney  Greenstreet,  Adolphe  Menjou,  Ava 
Gardner  (Jean  Ogilvie),  Keenan  Wynn,  Edward  Arnold,  Aubrey  Mather 


Producer:  Arthur  Hornblow,  Jr. 

Director:  Jack  Conway 

Screenwriter:        Luther  Davis 

Based  on  the  novel  by  Frederic  Wakeman 



Fred  MacMurray,  Ava  Gardner  (Linda),  Roland  Culver,  Richard  Haydn, 
Thomas  Gomez,  Spring  Byington 


Producer:  Jerr7  Bresler 

Director:  John  Brahm 

Screenwriters:  Seton  I.  Miller,  Robert  Thoeren 



Ava  Gardner  (Venus,  Goddess  of  Love/Venus  Jones),  Robert  Walker,  Dick 
Haymes,  Eve  Arden,  Olga  San  Juan,  Tom  Conway 


Producer:  Lester  Cowan 



Director:  William  A.  Seiter 

Screenwriters:      Harry  Kurnitz,  Frank  Tashlin 

Based  on  the  musical  play  by  Kurt  Weill,  S.  J.  Perelman,  Ogden  Nash 



Robert  Taylor,  Ava  Gardner  (Elizabeth  Hintten),  Charles  Laughton,  Vin- 
cent Price,  John  Hodiak 


Producer:  Pandro  S.  Berman 

Director:  Robert  Z.  Leonard 

Screenwriter:       Marguerite  Roberts 
Based  on  the  short  story  by  Frederick  Nebel 



Gregory  Peck,  Ava  Gardner  (Pauline  Ostrovski),  Melvyn  Douglas,  Walter 
Huston,  Ethel  Barrymore,  Frank  Morgan,  Agnes  Moorehead 


Producer:  Gottfried  Reinhardt 

Director:  Robert  Siodmak 

Screenwriters:      Ladislas  Fodor,  Christopher  Isherwood 

Based  on  the  novel  The  Gambler  by  Fyodor  Dostoyevsky 



Barbara  Stanwyck,  James  Mason,  Van  Heflin,  Ava  Gardner  (Isabel  Lor- 
rison),  Cyd  Charisse,  Nancy  Davis,  Gale  Sondergaard,  William  Conrad, 
William  Frawley 


Producer:  Voldemar  Vetluguin 

Director:  Mervyn  LeRoy 

Screenwriter:        Isobel  Lennart 
Based  on  the  novel  by  Marcia  Davenport 





Ava  Gardner  (Barbara  Beaurevel),  Robert  Mitchum,  Melvyn  Douglas,  Lu- 
cille Watson,  Janis  Carter 


Producers:  Robert  Sparks,  Polan  Banks 

Director:  Robert  Stevenson 

Screenwriter:        Marion  Parsonnet 

Based  on  the  novel  Carriage  Entrance  by  Polan  Banks 



James  Mason,  Ava  Gardner  (Pandora  Reynolds),  Nigel  Patrick,  Sheila  Sim, 
Harold  Warrender,  Mario  Cabre,  Marius  Goring,  John  Laurie,  Pamela  Kel- 


Producers:  Albert  Lewin,  Joseph  Kaufman 

Director:  Albert  Lewin 

Screenwriter:  Albert  Lewin 



Kathryn  Grayson,  Ava  Gardner  (Julie  Laverne),  Howard  Keel,  Joe  E. 
Brown,  Marge  Champion,  Gower  Champion,  Robert  Sterling,  Agnes 
Moorehead,  William  Warfield 


Producer:  Arthur  Freed 

Director:  George  Sidney 

Screenwriters:      John  Lee  Mahin  (uncredited),  George  Wells,  Jack 

Based  on  the  musical  by  Jerome  Kern  and  Oscar  Hamrnerstein  II 



Clark  Gable,  Ava  Gardner  (Martha  Ronda),  Broderick  Crawford,  Lionel 
Barrymore,  Beulah  Bondi,  Ed  Begley,  William  Farnum,  Lowell  Gilmore, 
Moroni  Olsen,  Russell  Simpson,  William  Conrad,  James  Burke 




Producer:  Z.  Wayne  Griffin 

Director:  Vincent  Sherman 

Screenwriter:  Borden  Chase 



Gregory  Peck,  Susan  Hayward,  Ava  Gardner  (Cynthia),  Hildegarde  Neff, 
Leo  G.  Carroll,  Torin  Thatcher,  Marcel  Dalio 

Twentieth  Century— Fox 

Producer:  Darryl  F.  Zanuck 

Director:  Henry  King 

Screenwriter:        Casey  Robinson 
Based  on  the  short  story  by  Ernest  Hemingway 



Robert  Taylor,  Ava  Gardner  (Cordelia  Cameron),  Howard  Keel,  Anthony 
Quinn,  Charlita 


Producer:  Stephen  Ames 

Director:  John  Farrow 

Screenwriter:  Frank  Fenton 



Fred  Astaire,  Cyd  Charisse,  Oscar  Levant,  Nanette  Fabray,  Jack  Buchanan, 
Ava  Gardner  (The  Movie  Star) 


Producer:  Arthur  Freed 

Director:  Vincente  Minnelli 

Screenwriters:  Betty  Cornden,  Adolph  Green 



Clark  Gable,  Ava  Gardner  (Eloise  Y.  Kelly),  Grace  Kelly,  Donald  Sinden, 
Philip  Stainton,  Laurence  Naismith 




Producer:  Sam  Zimbalist 

Director:  John  Ford 

Screenwriter:       John  Lee  Mahin 
Based  on  the  play  by  Wilson  Collison 



Robert  Taylor,  Ava  Gardner  (Guinevere),  Mel  Ferrer,  Anne  Crawford, 
Stanley  Baker,  Felix  Aylmer,  Robert  Urquhart,  Niall  MacGinnis 


Producer:  Pandro  S.  Berman 

Director:  Richard  Thorpe 

Screenwriters:      Talbot  Jennings,  Jan  Lustig,  Noel  Langley 

Based  on  Le  Morte  d' Arthur  by  Sir  Thomas  Malory 



Humphrey  Bogart,  Ava  Gardner  (Maria  Vargas),  Edmond  O'Brien,  Marius 
Goring,  Valentina  Cortesa,  Rossano  Brazzi,  Elizabeth  Sellers,  Warren  Ste- 

United  Artists 

Director:  Joseph  L.  Mankiewicz 

Screenwriter:       Joseph  L.  Mankiewicz 



Ava  Gardner  (Victoria  Jones),  Stewart  Granger,  Bill  Travers,  Abraham 
Sofaer,  Francis  Matthews,  Marne  Maitland,  Peter  filing,  Edward  Chapman, 
Freda  Jackson 


Producer:  Pandro  S.  Berman 

Director:  George  Cukor 

Screenwriters:      Sonya  Levien,  Ivan  Moffat 
Based  on  the  novel  by  John  Masters 





Ava  Gardner  (Lady  Susan  Ashlow),  Stewart  Granger,  David  Niven,  Walter 
Chiari,  Finlay  Currie,  Jean  Cadell 


Producers:  F.  Hugh  Herbert,  Mark  Robson 

Director:  Mark  Robson 

Screenwriter:        F.  Hugh  Herbert 

Based  on  the  play  by  Andre  Roussin 



Tyrone  Power,  Ava  Gardner  (Lady  Brett  Ashley),  Mel  Ferrer,  Errol  Flynn, 
Eddie  Albert,  Gregory  Ratoff,  Juliette  Greco,  Marcel  Dalio,  Henry  Daniell, 
Robert  J.  Evans 

Twentieth  Century— Fox 

Producer:  Darryl  F.  Zanuck 

Director:  Henry  King 

Screenwriter:       Peter  Viertel 
Based  on  the  novel  by  Ernest  Hemingway 



Ava  Gardner  (Duchess  of  Alba),  Anthony  Franciosa,  Amadeo  Nazzari, 
Gino  Cervi,  Lea  Padovani,  Massimo  Serato,  Carlo  Rizzo 

United  Artists 

Producer:  Goffredo  Lombardo 

Directors:  Henry  Koster,  Mario  Russo 

Screenwriters:  Norman  Corwin,  Giorgio  Prosperi 



Gregory  Peck,  Ava  Gardner  (Moira  Davidson),  Fred  Astaire,  Anthony  Per- 
kins, Donna  Anderson,  John  Tate,  Guy  Doleman 



United  Artists 

Producer:  Stanley  Kramer 

Director:  Stanley  Kramer 

Screenwriter:       John  Paxton 
Based  on  the  novel  by  Nevil  Shute 



Ava  Gardner  (Soledad),  Dirk  Bogarde,  Joseph  Gotten,  Vittorio  DeSica,  Aldo 


Producer:  Goffredo  Lombardo 

Director:  Nunnally  Johnson 

Screenwriter:        Nunnally  Johnson 

Based  on  the  novel  The  Fair  Bride  by  Bruce  Marshall 



Charlton  Heston,  Ava  Gardner  (Baroness  Natalie  Ivanoff),  David  Niven, 
Flora  Robson,  John  Ireland,  Harry  Andrews,  Leo  Genn,  Paul  Lukas,  Eliz- 
abeth Sellars,  Jacques  Sernas 

Allied  Artists 

Producer:  Samuel  Bronston 

Director:  Nicholas  Ray 

Screenwriters:  Philip  Yordan,  Bernard  Gordon 



Burt  Lancaster,   Kirk  Douglas,  Fredric  March,  Ava  Gardner   (Eleanor 
Holbrook),  Edmond  O'Brien,  Martin  Balsam,  George  Macready 


Producer:  Edward  Lewis 

Director:  John  Frankenheimer 

Screenwriter:        Rod  Serling 

Based  on  the  novel  by  Fletcher  Knebel  and  Charles  W.  Bailey  II 


AVA    GARDNER     ..  — 



Richard  Burton,  Ava  Gardner  (Maxine  Faulk),  Deborah  Kerr,  Sue  Lyon, 
James  Ward,  Grayson  Hall,  Cyril  Delevanti 


Producer:  Ray  Stark 

Director:  John  Huston 

Screenwriters:      Anthony  Veiller,  John  Huston 

Based  on  the  play  by  Tennessee  Williams 



Michael  Parks,  Ulla  Bergryd,  Richard  Harris,  John  Huston,  Stephen  Boyd, 
George  C.  Scott,  Ava  Gardner  (Sarah),  Peter  O'Toole,  Franco  Nero 

Twentieth  Century-Fox 

Producer:  Dino  De  Laurentiis 

Director:  John  Huston 

Screenwriter:        Christopher  Fry 
Adapted  from  episodes  from  the  Old  Testament 



Omar  Sharif,  Catherine  Deneuve,  James  Mason,  Ava  Gardner  (Empress 
Elizabeth),  James  Robertson  Justice,  Genevieve  Page,  Ivan  Desny,  Maurice 


Producer:  Robert  Dorfmann 

Director:  Terence  Young 

Screenwriter:  Terence  Young 



Ava  Gardner  (Michaela),  Ian  McShane,  Stephanie  Beacham,  Cyril  Cusack, 
Richard  Wattis,  David  Whitman,  Madeline  Smith 

American  International 

Producers:  Alan  Ladd,  Jr.,  Stanley  Mann 

Director:  Roddy  McDowall 

Screenwriter:        William  Spier 





Paul  Newman,  Jacqueline  Bisset,  Ava  Gardner  (Lily  Langtry),  Tab  Hunter, 
John  Huston,  Stacy  Keach,  Roddy  McDowall,  Anthony  Perkins 

National  General 

Producer:  John  Foreman 

Director:  John  Huston 

Screenwriter:       John  Milius 



Charlton  Heston,  Ava  Gardner  (Remy  Graff),  George  Kennedy,  Lome 
Greene,  Genevieve  Bujold 


Producer:  Jennings  Lang 

Director:  Mark  Robson 

Screenwriters:  George  Fox,  Mario  Puzo 



Dirk  Bogarde,  Ava  Gardner  (Katina  Peterson),  Bekim  Fehmiu,  Timothy 
Dalton,  Frederic  Forrest 

Avco  Embassy 

Producer:  Paul  Mills 

Director:  Cyril  Frankel 

Screenwriter:  Robin  Estridge 



Elizabeth  Taylor,  Jane  Fonda,  Ava  Gardner  (Luxury),  Cicely  Tyson,  Robert 
Morley,  Harry  Andrews,  Will  Geer 

Twentieth  Century— Fox 

Producer:  Paul  Maslansky 

Director:  George  Cukor 

Screenwriters:      Hugh  Whitemore,  Alfred  Hayes,  Alexel  Kapler 

Based  on  the  novel  by  Maurice  Maeterlinck 


AVA    GARDNER    __ _ __ _ 



Sophia  Loren,  Richard  Harris,  Ava  Gardner  (Nicole),  Burt  Lancaster,  Mar- 
tin Sheen,  Ingrid  Thulin,  Lee  Strasberg,  John  Philip  Law,  Ann  Turkel,  OJ. 
Simpson,  Lionel  Stander,  Alida  Valli 

Avco  Embassy 

Producers:  Sir  Lew  Grade,  Carlo  Ponti 

Director:  George  Pan  Cosmatos 

Screenwriters:  Tom  Mankiewicz,  Katy  Cosmatos 



Chris  Sarandon,  Cristina  Raines,  Martin  Balsam,  John  Carradine,  Jose  Fer- 
rer, Ava  Gardner  (Miss  Logan),  Arthur  Kennedy,  Burgess  Meredith,  Sylvia 
Miles,  Deborah  Raffin,  Eli  Wallach,  Jerry  Orbach 


Producers:  Michael  Winner,  Jeffrey  Konvitz 

Director:  Michael  Winner 

Screenwriters:  Michael  Winner,  Jeffrey  Konvitz 



Henry  Fonda,  Susan  Clark,  Ava  Gardner,  Barry  Newman,  Shelley  Winters, 
Leslie  Nielsen,  Richard  Donat 

Sandy  Howard— Bellevue  Pathe 

Producer:  Claude  Heroux 

Director:  Alvin  Rakoff 



William  Shatner,  Hal  Holbrook,  Ava  Gardner,  Van  Johnson 

Safel  Pictures 

Producers:  George  Mendeluk,  John  Ryan 

Director:  George  Mendeluk 

Screenwriter:        Richard  Murphy 

Based  on  a  novel  by  Charles  Templeton 





Ian  McKellan,  Janet  Suzman,  Sir  John  Gielgud,  Ava  Gardner 

Filmways  Pictures  Inc.— Enterprise  Pictures  Ltd. 
Producer:  Stanley  J.  Seeger 

Director:  Christopher  Miles 

Screenwriter:        Alan  Plater 















Albert,  Eddie,  300 
Alerton,  Dick,  23 
Alsop,  Stewart,  240 
Ames,  Stephen,  298 
Anderson,  Donna,  300 
Andrews,  Harry,  301,  303 
Andrews  Sisters,  29 
Anthony,  Joseph,  291 
Arden,  Eve,  295 
Arnold,  Edward,  55,  295 
Astaire,  Fred,  237,  238,  298,  300 
Astor,  Mary,  178,  293 
Autry,  Gene,  55,  262 
Aylmer,  Felix,  299 

Bailey,  Charles  W.  II,  301 
Baker,  Stanley,  299 
Balsam,  Martin,  301,  304 
Bancroft,  Ann,  276 
Banks,  Polan,  297 
Barnett,  Vince,  295 
Barrymore,  Ethel,  39,  296 
Barrymore,  Lionel,  39,  62,  294,  297 
Barton,  Ben,  160 
Basic,  Count,  120 
Bates,  Florence,  291,  294 
Baxter,  Alan,  292 
Beacham,  Stephanie,  302 
Beaudine,  William,  293 
Beaumont,  Harry,  294 

Bergryd,  Ulla,  302 

Berkeley,  Martin,  294 

Berman,  Pandro  S.,  296,  299 

Birmingham,  Stephen,  266-272 

Bisset,  Jacqueline,  303 

Bogarde,  Dirk,  301,  303 

Bogart,  Humphrey,  38,  195, 196,  299 

Bolton,  Muriel  Roy,  292 

Bondi,  Beulah,  297 

Bose,  Lucia,  223 

Bowman,  Lee,  291,  292 

Boyd,  Stephen,  302 

Brahm,  John,  295 

Brando,  Marlon,  194 

Brazzi,  Rossano,  299 

Bresler,  Jerry,  295 

Bronston,  Samuel,  301 

Brown,  Charles  D.,  295 

Brown,  Joe  E.,  297 

Brown,  Phil,  295 

Buchanan,  Jack,  298 

Buck,  Joyce,  99 

Buck,  Jules,  99-101 

Bucquet,  Harold,  61 

Bull,  Clarence,  43, 44 

Bujold,  Genevieve,  303 

Burgess,  Alan,  290 

Burke,  James,  297 

Burns,  Lillian,  44,  45,  111,  142-143, 


Burns,  Robert,  263 
Burton,  Richard,  62,  247-249,  266, 

Byington,  Spring,  295 



Cabre,  Mario,  137-139,  154,  297 
Cadell,  Jean,  300 
Caiias,  Maria,  123,  143, 
Cansino,  Margarita.  See  Hayworth, 


Cardiff,  Jack,  197 
Carlson,  Richard,  293 
Carradine,  John,  292,  304 
Carroll,  Leo  G.,  298 
Carter,  Janis,  297 
Cervi,  Gino,  300 
Champion,  Gower,  297 
Champion,  Marge,  297 
Chapman,  Edward,  299 
Charisse,  Cyd,  296,  298 
Chariita,  298 
Chase,  Borden,  298 
Chertok,  Jack,  291,  292 
Chiari,  Waiter,  223,  230,  231,  240, 


Christine,  Virginia,  295 
Clark,  Cliff,  292 
Clark,  Susan,  304 
Cohn,  Harry,  177-178 
Cohn,  Joan,  177-178 
Cole,  Ben,  172-175,  222 
Collins,  Joan,  194 
Collison,  Wilson,  299 
Comden,  Betty,  298 
Conrad,  William,  295-297 
Conway,  Jack,  104,  295 
Conway,  Tom,  294,  295 
Cooper,  Jackie,  55 
Cortesa,  Valentina,  299 
Corwin,  Norman,  300 
Cosmatos,  George  Pan,  304 
Cosmatos,  Katy,  304 
Cotten,  Joseph,  301 
Cowan,  Lester,  295 
Coward,  Noel,  291 
Craft,  Art,  90 
Craig,  James,  293,  294 
Crawford,  Anne,  299 
Crawford,  Broderick,  297 
Crawford,  Joan,  39,  42 
Creech,  Al  (nephew),  6-8, 14,  34 
Creech,  Elsie  Mae  Gardner  (sister),  2, 

6,  34 
Crowther,  Bosley,  188 

Cukor,  George,  212,  216,  218,  276, 

299,  303 

Culver,  Roland,  295 
Currie,  Finlay,  300 
Curtis,  Alan,  292 
Curtright,  Jorja,  294 
Cusack,  Cyril,  302 

Dahl,  Arlene,  110-113 

Dailey,  Dan,  Jr.,  291 

Dalio,  Marcel,  298,  300 

Dalton,  Timothy,  303 

Dandridge,  Dorothy,  143 

Daniell,  Henry,  300 

Dassin,  Jules,  293 

Davenport,  Marcia,  296 

Davis,  Bette,  200,  242,  251 

Davis,  Luther,  295 

Davis,  Nancy,  296 

Davis,  Sammy,  Jr.,  199 

Dawn,  Jack,  40,  41 

De  Carlo,  Yvonne,  106 

De  Laurentiis,  Dino,  253,  302 

De  Medicis,  Catherine,  11 

De  Sica,  Vittorio,  301 

Dean,  James,  126 

Dekker,  Albert,  295 

Delevanti,  Cyril,  302 

Deneuve,  Catherine,  302 

Desny,  Ivan,  302 

Dietz,  Jack,  293 

Doleman,  Guy,  300 

Dominguin,  Luis  Miguel,  201-208, 

222-223,  231 
Donat,  Richard,  304 
Dorfmann,  Robert,  302 
Dostoyevsky,  Fyodor,  91,  242,  296 
Douglas,  Kirk,  301 
Douglas,  Melvyn,  242,  243,  291,  296, 


Drake,  Charles,  294 
Drake,  Tom,  294 
Duff,  Howard,  105,  106, 118,  128, 


Duhan,  Barney,  30-31 
Dull,  Orville,  291 
Durbin,  Deanna,  40,  48 


Eddy,  Nelson,  141 
Eldridge,  Roy,  98 
Estridge,  Robin,  303 
fitting,  Ruth,  204 
Evans,  Robert,  227,  300 

Fabray,  Nanette,  298 

Fabrizi,  Aldo,  301 

Fairbanks,  Douglas,  55 

Farnum,  William,  297 

Farrow,  John,  298 

Fehmiu,  Bekim,  303 

Fenton,  Frank,  298 

Ferber,  Edna,  140 

Fernandez,  Emilio,  250 

Ferrer,  Jose,  303 

Ferrer,  Mel,  227,  299,  300 

Fineman,  B.  R,  292 

Fitzgerald,  Ella,  29,  143 

Flynn,  Errol,  227,  228,  300 

Fodor,  Ladislas,  296 

Fonda,  Henry,  28,  304 

Fonda,  Jane,  303 

Ford,  Henry  II,  104 

Ford,  John  (Jack),  181-185,  299 

Foreman,  John,  303 

Forrest,  Frederic,  303 

Fox,  George,  303 

Franciosa,  Anthony,  236,  300 

Francis,  Arlene,  167 

Franco,  Francisco,  275 

Franka,  280-282 

Frankel,  Cyril,  303 

Frankenheimer,  John,  301 

Frawley,  William,  296 

Freed,  Arthur,  140,  141, 143,  297, 


Freeman,  Howard,  292 
Freud,  Sigmund,  91,  92 
Froeschel,  George,  291 
Fry,  Christopher,  253,  302 

Gable,  Clark,  23, 24,  32,  34,  37,  39, 
40,  54,  61,  62,  102-105, 178, 
180, 182-184, 190, 285,  295, 
297,  298 

Garbo,  Greta,  39,  41-43,  118,  142, 
169-170,  172 

Gardner,  Beatrice  (Bappie)  (sister),  2, 
16,  21,  27-28,  31,  32,  34-35, 
38,  40,  41,  48,  50,  52,  54,  56, 
57,  64,  68-72,  76-81  102,  124, 
128,  129, 133-136,  159,  160, 
169-170,  172,  173,  203,  230, 

Gardner,  Elsie  Mae.  See  Creech,  Elsie 
Mae  Gardner  (sister) 

Gardner,  Inez.  See  Grimes,  Inez 
Gardner  (sister) 

Gardner,  Jonas  (father),  3-5,  9, 
15-17,  19-20,  36 

Gardner,  Mary  Elizabeth  Baker 
(mother),  2-10,  13,  14,  16, 
19-20,  24-27,  31-32,  34, 
36-37,  55,  59 

Gardner,  Melvin  (Jack)  (brother),  2, 
5,  12,  25,  36 

Gardner,  Myra  (sister).  See  Pearce, 
Myra  Gardner  (sister) 

Gardner,  Raymond  (brother),  2,  9-10 

Gargan,  William,  293 

Garland,  Judy,  39,  47,  49,  123,  142 

Garson,  Greer,  39 

Geer,  Will,  303 

Genn,  Leo,  301 

Geray,  Steven,  292 

Gielgud,  Sir  John,  305 

Gifford,  Frances,  294 

Gilbert,  John,  171 

Gilchrist,  Connie,  291,  292 

Gilmore,  Lowell,  297 

Goheen,  Robert  F.,  271 

Goldbeck,  Willis,  294 

Gomez,  Thomas,  295 


Gordon,  Bernard,  301 

Goring,  Marius,  297,  299 

Goya,  Francisco,  236 

Grable,  Betty,  55 

Grade,  Sir  Lew,  304 

Granger,  Stewart  (Jimmy),  213-216, 
223,  299,  300 

Graves,  Robert,  224,  257 

Gray,  Charles,  280 

Grayson,  Kathryn,  49,  141,  143,  297 



Greco,  Juliette,  227,  300 

Green,  Adolph,  298 

Greene,  Lome,  303 

Greenstreet,  Sydney,  103,  295 

Griffin,  Z.  Wayne,  298 

Grimes,  Inez  Gardner  (sister),  2,  35, 

Guest,  Beatrice.  See  Gardner,  Beatrice 

Guest,  Charlie  (brother-in-law), 

78-81,  102,  128 
Guilaroff,  Sydney,  42-43,  110 
Gwenn,  Edmund,  294 

Haight,  George,  294 

Hale,  Jonathan,  291 

Hall,  Grayson,  302 

Hall,  Huntz,  293 

Hammerstein,  Oscar  II,  141,  297 

Hanna,  David,  237 

Harding,  Warren  G.,  54 

Harlow,  Jean,  23,  178 

Harris,  Richard,  302,  304 

Hauser,  Gaylord,  170 

Hawks,  Howard,  67 

Haydn,  Richard,  295 

Hayes,  Alfred,  303 

Haymes,  Dick,  114,295 

Hayward,  Susan,  298 

Hayworth,  Rita,  114,  195 

Hazard,  Lawrence,  294 

Heflin,  Frances,  62,  82,  88,  90,  95 

Heflin,  Van,  62,  82,  95,  96,  292,  296 

Hellinger,  Mark,  84-86,  295 

Hemingway,  Ernest  (Papa),  84-85, 
98,  99, 165-166, 168,  201,  202, 
204,  226-230,  243,  295,  298 

Hemingway,  Hadley,  226 

Hepburn,  Audrey,  188 

Hepburn,  Katharine,  142,  145 

Herbert,  F.  Hugh,  300 

Heroux,  Claude,  304 

Hertz,  David,  292 

Heston,  Charlton,  301,  303 

Hickman,  Darryl,  291 

Higgins,  John  C,  292 

Higgins,  Kenneth,  293 

Hinds,  Samuel  S.,  292 
Hitchcock,  Alfred,  86 
Hodiak,  John,  294,  296 
Hoey,  Dennis,  291 
Holbrook,  Hal,  304 
Holden,  William,  55 
Holiday,  Billie,  89 
Hornblow,  Arthur,  Jr.,  295 
Home,  Lena,  142-144,  146-148, 


Howard,  Sandy,  304 
Hughes,  Howard,  66-81,  105,  113, 

127-128, 154,  157, 158,  160, 


223,  287 

Hunt,  Marsha,  291-293 
Hunter,  Ian  McLellan,  293 
Hunter,  Tab,  303 
Huston,  John,  85,  99-102,  228, 

246-256,  266,  269,  276,  278, 

295,  302,  303 
Huston,  Waiter,  242,  296 

Illing,  Peter,  299 
Ireland,  John,  301 
Iribarne,  Manuel  Fraga,  269 
Isherwood,  Christopher,  296 

Jackson,  Freda,  299 

James,  Rian,  292 

Jeffries,  Lionel,  217 

Jennings,  Talbot,  299 

Johnson,  Nunnally,  301 

Johnson,  Van,  62,  63,  292,  294,  304 

Jones,  Dick,  126,  159,  160 

Jones,  James,  177 

Jones,  Jennifer,  116,  226 

Jordan,  Bobby,  293 

Jordan,  Mearene  (Reenie),  102,  117, 
119,  123,  153-156,  204-205, 
208,  215,  220-221,  248, 
255-257,  276,  278,  283-289 

Joslyn,  Allyn,  293 

Justice,  James  Robertson,  302 



Kanin,  Fay,  292 

Kanin,  Michael,  292 

Kapler,  Alexel,  303 

Karloff,  Boris,  141 

Katzman,  Sam,  293 

Kaufman,  Joseph,  297 

Keach,  Stacy,  303 

Keel,  Howard,  141,  143,  297,  298 

Kellino,  Pamela,  297 

Kelly,  Gene,  124,  292 

Kelly,  Grace,  22-23,  178-181,  183, 


Kennedy,  Arthur,  304 
Kennedy,  Edgar,  292 
Kennedy,  George,  303 
Kennedy,  John  R,  251 
Kern,  Jerome,  141,  297 
Kerr,  Deborah,  103,  247,  249,  266, 

285,  295,  302 
Kettman,  Gus,  175 
Keyes,  Evelyn,  102 
Khan,  Aly,  195 
Kibbee,  Guy,  291,  292 
King,  Henry,  167,  168,  226,  228, 

243-244,  298,  300 
Knebel,  Fletcher,  301 
Konvitz,  Jeffrey,  304 
Koster,  Henry,  300 
Kramer,  Stanley,  236-239,  244,  245, 


Kruger,  Alma,  294 
Kurnitz,  Harry,  296 
Kyser,  Kay,  293 

Ladd,  Alan,  Jr.,  302 

Lamarr,  Hedy,  147 

Lamour,  Dorothy,  55 

Lancaster,  Burt,  85,  86,  295,  301,  304 

Lang,  Jennings,  303 

Langley,  Noel,  299 

Laughton,  Charles,  145,  296 

Laurie,  John,  297 

Law,  John  Phillip,  304 

Lawford,  Peter,  49,  58 

Lee,  Preston,  8 

Leigh,  Vivien,  263 

Lennart,  Isobel,  293,  296 

Leonard,  Robert  Z.,  291,  296 
LeRoy,  Mervyn,  296 
Levant,  Oscar,  298 
Levene,  Sam,  291,  295 
Levien,  Sonya,  299 
Lewin,  Albert,  137-139,  297 
Lewis,  Edward,  301 
Lewis,  Sinclair,  91,  104 
Lombard,  Carole,  54,  105 
Lombardo,  Goffredo,  300,  301 
Loren,  Sophia,  304 
Lugosi,  Bela,  64,  293 
Lukas,  Paul,  301 
Luke,  Keye,  294 
Lundigan,  William,  291 
Lustig,  Jan,  299 
Lutz,  Glenn  H.,  52 
Lutz,  Mrs.  Glenn  H.,  52 
Lyon,  Sue,  247,  249,  250,  302 

MacBride,  Donald,  295 
MacDonald,  Jeanette,  141 
MacGinnis,  Niall,  299 
MacLaine,  Shirley,  121 
MacMurray,  Fred,  284,  295 
Macready,  George,  301 
Madison,  Noel,  291 
Maeterlinck,  Maurice,  303 
Mahin,  John  Lee,  141,  179,  297,  299 
Main,  Marjorie,  291 
Maitland,  Marne,  299 
Malley,  Peggy,  120 
Malory,  Sir  Thomas,  299 
Mankiewicz,  Joseph  L.,  194-198, 


Mankiewicz,  Tom,  304 
Mann,  Stanley,  302 
Mann,  Thomas,  91 
March,  Fredric,  301 
Maree,  Morgan,  268,  269 
Marshall,  Bruce,  301 
Marshall,  Herbert,  293 
Martini,  Mr.  (Spanish  teacher), 


Marx,  Samuel,  292 
Maslansky,  Paul,  303 
Mason,  James,  137,  296,  297,  302 



Masters,  John,  212,  299 
Mather,  Aubrey,  295 
Matthews,  Francis,  213,  299 
Maxwell,  Marilyn,  62,  63,  162,  293, 

Mayer,  Louis  B.,  39, 41,  44,  48,  51, 

52,  85, 103,  111,  140, 145,  267 
McCall,  Mary  C,  Jr.,  294 
McCarthy,  Joe,  140 
McDowall,  Roddy,  261-265,  302,303 
McGowan,  Jack,  297 
McGraw,  Charles,  295 
McGuire,  Mickey.  See  Rooney, 

Mclndoe,  Sir  Archibald,  222, 


McKellan,  Ian,  305 
McLaglen,  Victor,  294 
McShane,  Ian,  302 
Meek,  Donald,  293,  294 
Mendeluk,  George,  304 
Menjou,  Adolphe,  295 
Meredith,  Burgess,  304 
Merivale,  Philip,  293 
Meyer,  Johnny,  67,  79,  195,  207 
Miles,  Christopher,  305 
Miles,  Sylvia,  304 
Milius,  John,  303 
Miljan,  John,  295 
Miller,  David,  292 
Miller,  Seton  L,  295 
Mills,  Paul,  303 
Minnelli,  Vincente,  298 
Miranda,  Carmen,  47 
Mitchum,  Dorothy,  121 
Mitchum,  Robert,  119-121,  297 
Moffat,  Ivan,  299 
Moguy,  Leonide,  83,  294 
Monroe,  Vaughan,  32 
Moore,  Terry,  250 
Moorehead,  Agnes,  242,  296,  297 
Moreau,  Jeanne,  263 
Morgan,  Frank,  296 
Morgan,  Helen,  141 
Morgan,  Jess,  278,  290 
Morgan,  Ralph,  292 
Morison,  Patricia,  292 
Morley,  Robert,  303 
Mowbray,  Alan,  291 
Murphy,  Richard,  304 

Naish,  J.  Carroll,  291 

Naismith,  Laurence,  298 

Nash,  Ogden,  114,296 

Nazzari,  Amedeo,  300 

Nebel,  Frederick,  296 

Nebenzal,  Seymour,  82,  83,  292,  294 

Neff,  Hildegarde,  298 

Nero,  Franco,  302 

Newman,  Barry,  304 

Newman,  Paul,  303 

Nicolosi,  Joseph,  115 

Nicot,  Jean,  11 

Nielsen,  Leslie,  304 

Niven,  David,  223,  300,  301 

Noble,  Bill,  293 

O'Brian,  Hugh,  284 

O'Brien,  Edmond,  85,  86,  195, 

197-198,  295,  299,  301 
O'Brien,  Margaret,  293 
O'Brien,  Pat,  55 
O'Hara,  Maureen,  181 
O'Neill,  Henry,  292,  293 
O'Toole,  Peter,  255,  302 
Odekirk,  Glenn,  70 
Olsen,  Moroni,  297 
Orbach,  Jerry,  304 
Orry  Kelly,  116 
Owen,  Reginald,  291,  294 

Padovani,  Lea,  300 

Page,  Genevieve,  302 

Parish,  James  R.,  291 

Parks,  Michael,  302 

Parsonnet,  Marion,  297 

Pathe,  Bellevue,  304 

Patrick,  Gail,  291 

Patrick,  Nigel,  297 

Paxton,  John,  301 

Payne,  John,  55 

Pearce,  Myra  Gardner  (sister),  2,  7—8, 

Peck,  Gregory,  145, 166,  237-239, 

241-245,  296,  298,  300 
Peck,  Veronique,  238, 259 
Peralta,  Angelo,  230 



Perelman,S.J.,  114,296 

Perkins,  Anthony,  237,  238,  300,  303 

Peron,  Juan,  273-275 

Perrin,  Nat,  293 

Peters,  Susan,  293 

Petersen,  Les,  51—53,  56 

Picasso,  Pablo,  201 

Plater,  Alan,  305 

Ponti,  Carlo,  304 

Porter,  Cole,  89,  197 

Power,  Tyrone,  227,  228,  300 

Price,  Vincent,  296 

Prosper!,  Giorgio,  300 

Puzo,  Mario,  303 

Quillan,  Eddie,  292 
Quinn,  Anthony,  298 

Raffin,  Deborah,  304 

Raft,  George,  83,  84,  294 

Ragland,  Rags,  291,  294 

Raines,  Cristina,  304 

Rakoff,  Alvin,  304 

Raleigh,  Sir  Walter,  11 

Rameau,  Hans,  291 

Ratoff,  Gregory,  300 

Ray,  Nicholas,  301 

Raymond,  Gene,  55 

Reid,  Elliott,  293 

Reinhardt,  Gottfried,  296 

Rich,  Irene,  292 

Riesner,  Charles,  292 

Rivkin,  Allen,  291,  292 

Rizzo,  Carlo,  300 

Roberts,  Marguerite,  296 

Robeson,  Paul,  141 

Robinson,  Casey,  165-167,  298 

Robson,  Flora,  301 

Robson,  Mark,  300,  303 

Rogers,  Jean,  291 

Romm,  May,  91,  92 

Rooney,  Mickey  (husband),  39, 
47-60,  63,  67,  79-80,  90,  97, 
99, 105, 112-113, 122, 128,  286 

Roosevelt,  Eleanor,  55 

Roosevelt,  Franklin  D.,  55 

Rosza,  Miklos,  87 

Rotunno,  Giuseppe  (Pepe),  236,  237, 


Roussin,  Andre,  300 
Rowland,  Roy,  293 
Ruman,  Sig,  291,  294 
Ruskin,  Harry,  292,  294 
Russell,  Rosalind,  55 
Russo,  Mario,  300 
Rutherford,  Ann,  292 
Ryan,  John,  304 

Sachs,  Lester,  160 

Sachs,  Manie,  159, 160 

San  Juan,  Olga,  295 

Sanicola,  Hank,  130,  131,  153-154, 

156,  159,  160,  287 
Sarandon,  Chris,  304 
Schamm,  Charlie,  41 
Senary,  Dore,  140, 142 
Schenck,  Marvin,  31—32 
Schenck,  Nick,  195 
Scott,  George  C,  254-260,  268,  288, 


Scott,  Hazel,  32-33 
Seeger,  Stanley  J.,  305 
Seiter,  William  A.,  296 
Sellers,  Elizabeth,  299,  301 
Selznick,  David  O.,  116,  228 
Selznick,  Irene,  116 
Serato,  Massimo,  300 
Semas,  Jacques,  301 
Sharif,  Omar,  302 
Shatner,  William,  304 
Shaw,  Artie  (husband),  69,  88-99, 

102, 113, 125, 127, 129-130, 

141?  143-144,  146, 154,  169, 

283,  286 

Shaw,  Elizabeth  Kem,  141 
Shaw,  Tommy,  250 
Shearer,  Nonna,  60-61,  291 
Sheen,  Martin,  304 
Sherman,  Vincent,  298 
Shine,  14 
Shore,  Dinah,  142 
Shute,  Nevil,  236,  244,  245,  301 
Sicre,  Betty,  224-225,  270 
Sicre,  Ricardo,  270,  271 



Sidney,  George,  33-34,  141,  142, 

292,  297 
Sim,  Sheila,  297 
Simmons,  Dick,  292 
Simmons,  Jean,  213—214 
Simpson,  O.  J.,  304 
Simpson,  Russell,  297 
Sinatra,  Barbara,  287 
Sinatra,  Dolly,  150,  160 
Sinatra,  Frank  (husband),  69, 
121-131,  128, 138-139, 
149-164,  167-176,  184-187, 
189-193,  201,  202,  205,  207, 
213-214,  233,  240,  254, 

Sinatra,  Marty,  150-151, 160 

Sinatra,  Nancy,  123-127, 149, 
151-152,  157 

Sinden,  Donald,  180,  298 

Siodmak,  Robert,  86,  242,  243,  295, 

Sirk,  Douglas,  292 

Sisk,  Robert,  293 

Skelton,  Red,  122 

Smith,  Bill,  259 

Smith,  Madeline,  302 

Sofaer,  Abraham,  299 

Sondergaard,  Gale,  296 

Sothern,  Ann,  294 

Sparks,  Robert,  297 

Spier,  William,  302 

Stainton,  Philip,  298 

Stander,  Lionel,  304 

Stanwyck,  Barbara,  118,  284,  296 

Stark,  Ray,  246,  249,  251,  302 

Starr,  Irving,  292,  293 

Statner,  William,  304 

Stephani,  Frederick,  294 

Stephens,  Harvey,  291 

Sterling,  Robert,  292,  297 

Sterling,  Rod,  301 

Stevens,  Warren,  299 

Stevenson,  Robert,  297 

Stewart,  James,  39,  55 

Stone,  Lewis,  48 

Stordahl,  Axel,  160 

Stossel,  Ludwig,  292 

Strasberg,  Lee,  304 

Strickling,  Howard,  147-148,  191, 

Sturges,  Preston,  69 
Suzman,  Janet,  305 

Tarr,  Beatrice.  See  Gardner,  Beatrice 

(Bappie)  (sister) 
Tarr,  Larry  (brother-in-law),  27-31, 

54,  79 

Tashlin,  Frank,  296 
Tate,  John,  300 
Taylor,  Elizabeth,  49,  111,  194,  248, 

249,  285,  303 
Taylor,  Robert,  117-119, 128,  189, 

284,  296,  298,  299 
Templeton,  Charles,  304 
Teynac,  Maurice,  302 
Thalberg,  Irving,  60-61,  137 
Thatcher,  Heather,  291 
Thatcher,  Torin,  298 
Thoeren,  Robert,  295 
Thorpe,  Richard,  291,  299 
Thulin,  Ingrid,  304 
Tone,  Franchot,  292 
Tracy,  Spencer,  39 
Travers,  Bill,  213,  215,  299 
Truffaut,  Frangois,  197 
Turan,  Kenneth,  290 
Turkel,  Ann,  304 
Turner,  Lana,  41-42,  44,  49, 

125-126,  147,  172-175,  222 
Tyson,  Cicely,  303 

Urecal,  Minerva,  293 
Urquhart,  Robert,  299 

Valli,  AHda,  304 

Vallin,  Ric,  64,  293 

Vallone,  Tony,  126 

Vargas,  Carmen,  290 

Veiller,  Anthony,  85,  99,  295,  302 

Vetluguin,  Voldemar,  296 

Viertel,  Peter,  227,  300 

Vogeler,  Gertrude,  44—45 

Vronsky,  Stepan,  94 



Wakeraan,  Frederic,  103,  295 
Walker,  Robert,  114,  116,  117,  295 
Wallace,  Henry,  145 
Wallach,  Eli,  178,  186,  304 
Wallis,  Hal,  97 
Wallis,  Minna,  97,  169,  170 
Ward,  James,  302 
Warfield,  William,  141,  297 
Warren,  Annette,  144 
Warrender,  Harold,  297 
Watson,  Lucile,  297 
Wattis,  Richard,  302 
Wayne,  John,  181 
Weidler,  Virginia,  292 
Weill,  Kurt,  114,  296 
Weiss,  Milton,  38,  47 
Wells,  George,  297 
West,  Claudine,  291 
Whale,  James,  141 
Whelan,  Tim,  293 
Whitemore,  Hugh,  303 
Whitman,  David,  302 
Williams,  Billy,  263 
Williams,  Esther,  49,  57,  142 
Williams,  Tennessee,  246,  248, 
251-252,  303 

Wilson,  Warren,  293 
Winsor,  Kathleen,  97 
Winner,  Michael,  304 
Winters,  Shelley,  304 
Wolff,  Maritta,  82 
Wynn,  Keenan,  293,  295 

Yordan,  Philip,  294,  301 
Young,  Robert,  291 
Young,  Terence,  302 
Yule,  Joe  (father-in-law),  50,  52 
Yule,  Joe,  Jr.  See  Rooney,  Mickey 
Yule,  Mrs.  Joe  (mother-in-law),  (Nell 
Pankey),  50-52 

Zanuck,  Darryl  R,  165-167,  210, 

226,  228,  298,  300 
Ziegfeld,  Flo,  141 
Zimbalist,  Sam,  299 
Zinnemann,  Fred,  62,  178,  292 


(Continued  from  front  flap) 

Lana  Turner,  Elizabeth  Taylor,  and  Peter 
Lawford,  dancing  at  Giro's  and  the  Trocadero 
—and  married  to  Mickey  Rooney,  the  most 
popular  entertainer  in  America.  And  that  was 
only  the  beginning.... 

Over  the  next  four  decades  Ava  Gardner 
would  dazzle  the  world  with  memorable 
roles  in  such  film  classics  as  Show  Boat,  The 
Bible,  and  The  Night  of  the  Iguana.  Here, 
she  recalls  the  early  days,  from  posing  for 
cheesecake  photos  "sultry  enough  to  melt  the 
North  Pole".to  battling  stage  fright  with  a  shot 
of  bourbon,  and  from  making  The  Snows  of 
Kilimanjaro  and  The  Barefoot  Contessa, 
movies  that  brought  her  international  fame, 
to  her  Oscar-nominated  performance  in 
Mogambo,  playing  opposite  her  screen  idol, 
Clark  Gable. 

Here,  too,  with  characteristic  candor,  Ava 
reveals  her  tempestuous  private  life:  the  three 
stormy  marriages  that  ended  in  divorce;  the 
passionate  affairs  with  matadors  and  movie 
stars;  the  complex  twenty-year  friendship  with 
eccentric  multimillionaire  Howard  Hughes; 
the  romantic  dreams,  the  doubts,  the  battles 
offscreen  and  on;  the  wild  times  and,  later, 
the  quiet  times  of  a  hard-living,  hard-loving 
screen  siren  who  was  called  the  most 
irresistible  woman  in  the  world. 

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